Nigerian govt too indifferent to attacks on Christian farmers, US congressman says

Chris Smith

Rep Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has expressed with great concern that Nigerian government has been indifferent to attacks on Christian farmers by Fulani herdsmen.

Smith noted that the “Confluence of religious, ethnic, economic and political tensions is only likely to be exacerbated in the lead-up to elections next year unless President Muhammadu Buhari speaks out with a clear voice condemning the herdsmen attacks.”

While receiving the Annual Report of the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report, charged Everyone to protect this fundamental freedom.”

“Religious freedom is under siege globally, challenging US interests. It is no coincidence that the worst violators of religious freedom globally are also the biggest threats to our nation—those who wish to do Americans the most harm, and those who most want to tear down the pillars of democratic societies.

“Thus, a robust religious freedom diplomacy not only reflects American values, but advances US national security interests. It seems the Administration understands these facts, I look forward to working working with them on this critical issue,” Smith said.

Congressman Smith noted the need to take more direct action in certain countries: Nigeria, China, Vietnam, Iraq and Turkey.

For Nigeria, he stated that  “Congress is watching the situation in Nigeria with growing concern, as the Nigerian government there appears too often to be indifferent to attacks by Fulani herdsmen on predominantly Christian farmers.

”The confluence of religious, ethnic, economic and political tensions is only likely to be exacerbated in the lead-up to elections next year unless President Muhammadu Buhari speaks out with a clear voice condemning the herdsmen attacks. We grieve with the families of those killed, including those of two priests and 17 worshippers who were buried just last week following an attack by herdsmen in Benue state in April.”

Smith also noted that “China gets a failing grade. It once again is designated a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). China’s ‘war on religion’ expanded this year, with horrifying abuses targeting the Uyghur Muslims and more restrictions on Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners.

“How China treats religion will determine the country’s future prosperity and stability, as religious adherence grows despite repression. It is in the interest of the US to raise religious freedom concerns as only the US has the economic and political clout to avoid the type of economic retaliation the Chinese government uses to coerce silence about its human rights abuses.”

He also revealed that “Christians and Yazidis were targeted for genocide by ISIS starting in 2014. Today they are at risk of being forced to leave their ancient homelands unless the United States and others start giving them direct aid soon.

“I have received reports from the ground that promised US assistance is not yet reaching them as it should. What the Administration does now may determine whether ISIS erases these communities or is denied a propaganda and recruiting victory.”

Furthermore, “The government of Turkey continues to use the weight of the state to crack down on religious freedom as part of its broader assault on the rule of law. For more than two years the Turkish government has held Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American citizen, hostage. The United States must hold the perpetrators of this injustice accountable with targeted sanctions.

“This report is filled with examples of anti-Semitic attacks, discrimination, and rhetoric—especially in Europe. Yet, we still await the appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. My provisions in the Global Anti-Semitism Act of 2004 created and mandated the position of Special Envoy to lead our fight against this persistent, unique hatred. The newly-sworn-in Secretary Pompeo promised me at a recent hearing that he will appoint someone soon and I look forward to an announcement of that appointment,” Smith said.

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