The United States Government has excluded Nigeria from its list of religious violators just as it has blacklisted China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and 7 other nations as countries of particular concern for engaging in or tolerating systemic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.

This disclosure is contained in a statement titled, ‘Religious Freedom Designations,‘ issued on Wednesday by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who is currently on an official visit to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

Nigeria, which was placed on the list of religious violators in 2020 by the US for engaging and tolerating the severe violation of religious freedom, was missing in the new list of countries designated in 2021 for religious violations.

Countries in the new list include;

Other countries that were designated as countries of special concern for engaging or tolerating violations of religious freedom include Burma, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan just as countries like Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua have all been placed on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.

Also, Blinken, in the statement said that the US government has designated Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

What the US Secretary of State is saying

Blinken said the US will not waiver in its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country as they continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs in too many places around the world.

The statement from Blinken partly reads, “Each year the Secretary of State has the responsibility to identify governments and non-state actors, who, because of their religious freedom violations, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. 

‘’I am designating Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.

‘’I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom. 

‘’Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.’’

Blinken noted that the challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched and they exist in every country.

He said, ‘’We will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices, and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses.  

‘’The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe.’’

What you should know

Recall that in December 2020, the Federal Government protested as the US placed Nigeria and 6 other countries on its special watch list of states that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom.
The United States Government cited the violation of rights of Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), whose leader Sheikh Ibrahim El Zaky Zaky was still in detention despite a court ordering his release as one of the cases it considered.
It also cited the attack on Christians and Muslims based on their religious identities.
The US Secretary of State, who is currently in Kenya on an official visit, is expected to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and other members of his administration on Thursday.