Friday, April 06, 2012

USCIRF Concerned about Easter Terror Threats in Nigeria

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2012

USCIRF Concerned about Easter Terror Threats in Nigeria

WASHINGTON, DC -- Having just returned from an information-gathering mission to Nigeria, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is deeply concerned about the latest threats to the lives of Christians and Muslims from Boko Haram, the militant group that espouses an extreme and violent interpretation of Islam. USCIRF’s concern underscores the action by the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja of issuing an updated travel warning today on the eve of Easter.   Among Boko Haram’s goals is to impose an extreme interpretation of Shari’ah law on all citizens of Nigeria, and its representatives have called on Christians to leave the north.

Leonard Leo, Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, “These threats, especially as Easter approaches, should be taken seriously, especially given Boko Haram’s coordinated attacks on Christmas day when suicide bombers attacked churches in five different cities in central and northern Nigeria.” 

In the violence last Christmas, a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, outside of Abuja and killed at least 44 people.  Other churches were attacked in Jos, Kano, Gadaka, and Damaturu.  After this attack, the Committee of Imams of the Federal Capital Territory, alongside a representative of the Sultan of Sokoto, paid a condolence visit to St. Theresa’s Catholic Church.  They condemned the church attack and deplored other acts of violence committed in Islam’s name in Nigeria and other parts of the world, emphasizing that such acts were a deviation from the teachings of their religion.

“USCIRF commends Nigerian religious leaders who have condemned Boko Haram’s religiously-motivated violence and urges continued interreligious condemnation of threats or attacks in the name of religion.   The U.S. government should continue to engage the Nigerian government as intensely as possible to ensure that the actions of these religious leaders are paralleled by Nigeria’s justice leaders bringing all perpetrators of violence to speedy justice.

“Nigeria’s leaders have failed to date to muster the will and courage to bring all perpetrators to justice.  That means seriously prosecuting them, regardless of their faith or position in society, and ensuring a speedy process which holds them accountable.  This includes giving state prosecutors more freedom and flexibility against offenders, rather than insisting on federal trials which result in holding the detained in the capital and releasing them a few months later,” Leo said.

Since 1999, more than 14,000 Nigerians have been killed in religiously-related violence between Christians and Muslims.  This sectarian violence threatens the stability and viability of a country that is considered far too vital to be allowed to slide into chaos and perhaps another civil war.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, contact Paul Liben at pliben@uscirf.gov or (703) 870-6041.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.
Visit our Web site at www.uscirf.gov
Leonard A. Leo, Chair • Don Argue, Vice Chair • Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Vice Chair
Azizah Y. al-Hibri • Felice D. Gaer • Richard D. Land • Ted Van Der Meid
Nina Shea • William Shaw • Jackie Wolcott, Executive Director
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