Nigeria is made up of a population that is Muslim in majority, 51.6% according to a 2019 report from the World Factbook by CIA, while the remaining percent consists of Christians with other religious and ethnic groups. Up until now, the country is still facing struggles in addressing the violations of religious freedom in its own land. Sectarian conflicts have been long present and more actions regarding violence still needs concern. Religious violence in Nigeria is often referred to as the Christian-Muslim strife in modern Nigeria, which can be traced back to the year 1953. As per recent records, religious violence in Nigeria is influenced and led by the Boko Haram insurgency, which aims to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.
On the 28th of April 2020, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) launched an annual report, presenting the violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief in 29 countries, including Nigeria which is further recommended to be designated as one of the additional CPCs. According to the USCIRF website, CPCs are the countries that commit “systematic, ongoing, and egregious or terrible violations of religious freedom”. Nigeria, as a country designated as one of the CPCs, is recommended by the USCIRF for policy options, that include sanctions, to the US state department.
Recent incidents have been recorded with regards to this issue, including the kidnapping and execution of a Christian Pastor last January 2020 by the Boko Haram group. Series of reported attacks on churches in the recent years in Northern Nigeria has also led some Christians in the country to fear for their safety with the belief that they are being persecuted for their religion. Christians in Nigeria have worn black during a certain period of time to raise awareness and to call for attention regarding the continued violence in the north where terrorist attacks and intercommunal conflicts have been intensified over the past decade. Millions are displaced and thousands are killed from their religious and ehtnic backgrounds. Christian pastor Lawan Andimi was kidnapped on January 2 in Michika. His daughter and her husband planned to stay in Michika for a few days before this incident happened, but the pastor insisted that they leave right after the New Year’s church service, as if he has a hint of what was about to happen. A proof of life video was released to the media by the Boko Haram, three days after the kidnapping. In the beginning, they asked for 2 million euros as ransom but soon after, ther kidnappers stopped picking up their phones. Andimi was executed on January 20.
Another recent incident happened last June 2020 where Rev. Emmanuel Bileya was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN), was attacked and killed while working on his farm in Taraba State. His pregnant wife, Juliana was also killed, leaving behind eight children, an extended family, and a grieving congregation. Christians are still alarmed from the continuous tribal conflicts of the region and the authorities must take action as soon as possible. Reconciliation is needed now in Nigeria as the current conflicts rage on.