Christian Worshippers Face Egregious Violence in Nigeria as Government Tolerates Attacks, Reveals USCIRF Report

Lagos, Nigeria – President Bola Tinubu and state governors in Nigeria are under scrutiny for their alleged tolerance of “egregious violence” against Christian worshippers, as reported in the 2024 annual review by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

According to the latest report documenting incidents in 2023, the Nigerian government, both at federal and state levels, has faced challenges in identifying the perpetrators and motives behind violent attacks targeting the Christian community.

The USCIRF report, released on Wednesday, highlighted the prevalence of violence in states such as Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Adamawa, and Benue. For example, a Nigerian non-governmental organization, Intersociety, reported that, in 2023, a total of 8,222 Christian deaths were attributed to violent insurgent groups, armed gangs, and Nigerian government forces.

Specific cases mentioned in the report include the killing of 414 individuals in predominantly Christian communities in Benue state by extremists, as well as the deaths of 450 Christians in northeastern states between May and June 2023. Violence continued with attacks in Plateau State, where at least 29 people, including Christians, were killed, and incidents in Kaduna State involving the kidnapping and killing of a Catholic seminarian.

Furthermore, the USCIRF publication pointed out the lack of government accountability in preventing attacks against faith-based organizations and worshippers in Nigeria, particularly criticizing the slow response of government officials to reports of possible attacks. Both the police and army were criticized for their failure to address the activities of violent insurgent groups like Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), and Fulani gangs, who often targeted religious leaders.

Overall, the USCIRF concluded that religious freedom conditions in Nigeria in 2023 remained dire, with widespread violence negatively impacting freedom of religion. The report emphasized the urgent need for the Nigerian government to take further steps to protect religious freedom and address the collaboration between armed groups and attackers, which has led to numerous casualties among the Christian population.