In spite of a Christmas Eve massacre of about 200 Nigerians in predominantly Christian areas and evidence of India’s growing transnational repression of religious minorities, neither nation was designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. Department of State or placed on its Special Watch List.
In response to the omissions, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for a congressional hearing, noting the State Department’s own reported evidence of religious freedom violations in both countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Jan. 4 the State Department redesignated a dozen nations as Countries of Particular Concern — a category reserved for nations that engage in or tolerate “systemic, ongoing and egregious violations” of religious freedom.
12 listed to Countries of Particular Concern
The State Department-designated CPCs are Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
“There is no justification as to why the State Department did not designate Nigeria or India as a Country of Particular Concern, despite its own reporting and statements. USCIRF calls on Congress to convene a public hearing on the failure of the State Department to follow our recommendations,” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Abraham Cooper and Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie said in a joint statement.
5 others on Special Watch List
The USCIRF in its 2023 annual report recommended all 12 countries be redesignated as CPCs without any waivers on sanctions and also recommended the Special Watch List designation for India, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Syria and Vietnam.
“We met with the State Department on many occasions to sound the alarm about these countries, but not all of our recommendations have been followed. We will not be deterred and will continue our role as a congressionally mandated watchdog to ensure the U.S. government prioritizes religious freedom as a key component of U.S. foreign policy.”.
Cooper and Davie pointed to the Christmas Eve attacks on Christians as “just the latest example of deadly violence against religious communities in Nigeria that even the State Department has condemned.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Ken Camp and first appeared in the Baptist Standard.