The immediate past United States Secretary of State and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, says at least 1,500 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the last six months, adding that the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is not doing enough to protect religious freedom.
Pompeo, who served as Secretary of State under ex-President Donald Trump, stated this in an article titled, ‘The Persecution of Christians in Nigeria Demands Our Attention’ which was published by the American Centre for Law and Justice on Wednesday.
He said the Buhari regime had suppressed the news of the killings of Christians by masking it as farmer-herder crisis.
The ex-US official said, “At least 1,500 Christians have already been killed in Nigeria during 2021, and even more have been kidnapped and are either being held hostage or trafficked. The attacks are brutal. Armed radical Islamic groups arrive in a village during the night, kill the men, rape and murder the women, and kidnap the children.
“The Nigerian government thus far has sought to downplay the attacks, characterising them as conflicts between herders and farmers rather than as religiously motivated acts of terror. These terrorists must be held accountable for such preposterous characterisations. And given that Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any African country – over 80 million, nearly half of its people – it is essential that this persecution is snuffed out before it becomes even worse.”
The former American official said every single day in Nigeria, Christians aren’t just having their right to religious freedom denied – they are being murdered because of their faith in Jesus.
Pompeo argued that no society that denies its people the right to worship according to their beliefs, or that allows that right to come under attack without consequence, can claim to be truly good.
He said in 2018, 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Dapchi, Yobe State but when a deal was cut to return most of the girls home, one was held back – Leah Sharibu because she refused to convert to Islam.
The former secretary of state wondered how Sharibu could remain in captivity for three years without consequence.
Pompeo, therefore, stressed the need for a foreign policy that takes seriously the issue of ensuring religious freedom around the world is critical to serving America’s interests.
He noted that Open Doors’ Country Report states that today, more Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in the world.
“The number of Christians murdered there increased by 60 per cent in 2020. The presence of radical, jihadist Islamic groups in northern Nigeria, such as Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen, ensures that this ongoing persecution is likely to get worse. I have personally met with Christian Nigerian leaders and heard their tragic stories of those who have been persecuted because of their faith,” Pompeo said.
He recalled that during the Trump administration, he took the important first steps toward dealing with this serious issue in December 2020, when Nigeria was added to the State Department’s ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ list.
Pompeo said the US recognised that Buhari’s government was tolerating the attacks.
“We did this because we recognised reality – the Nigerian government was tolerating the systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of the religious freedom of its people, allowing them to suffer at the hands of radical Islamic terror.
“This designation signalled to the Nigerian government that swift action on their part was needed to put an end to this persecution, or there would be further consequences in the form of sanctions and increased diplomatic pressure,” he said.
Pompeo revealed that the ACLJ had just filed its 18th written submission and made critical oral interventions at the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the plight of Christians in Nigeria.
“I’m eager to engage in this work with them as we seek to put a stop to these ongoing tragedies,” he added.