Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam: A personal reaction to Nigeria’s removal from the
Global Mission Leader, Peace & Social Justice Advocate, and President/CEO The Para-Mallam Peace Foundation
The US Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, said: “The challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched . . .” It goes without saying that religious persecution in Nigeria today are structural, systemic, deeply entrenched and in addition, very deadly physical attacks on Christians.
The culture of denialism when it comes to religious persecution by this present government in Nigeria has blindfolded the US government. Therefore, it beats my imagination that with all that is going on in Nigeria regarding the persecution of Christians, Nigeria, which became a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in December 2020, could be so hastily removed in less than one year. Interestingly, Nigeria was removed from the CPC list but Boko and ISWAP were named in the entities of particular concern list.
This clearly shows that the Department of State recognizes the significant challenge of religious freedom in Nigeria. Religious persecution in Nigeria has multifaceted dimensions yet Nigeria was not even in the Special Watch List (SWL)? I really wish to ask: What has changed in Nigeria? Have the mass kidnappings and mass killing of Christians stopped? Have the on-going attacks which led thousands become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from several Christian communities stopped?
No doubt Muslim communities have also come under attack by the Bandits but that unfortunately is a strange scenario of Muslims attacking and killing Muslims. As a Peace Advocate and crusader for social justice, I am completely opposed to Muslims being killed also, just as I am opposed to the killing of Christians. Therefore, I have always wandered and asked myself, how does the killing of Muslims cancel the fact that Christians are being killed or suggest in any way that they are not being persecuted? It is untrue and deceitful to make the world believe that Christians are not being persecuted in Nigeria. Many Christians in States such as Benue, Plateau, Yobe, Borno, Niger, Southern Kaduna, etc. are systematically being uprooted from their ancestral homelands. Should this be taking place in a country that is supposedly mutli-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural?
The culture of denialism suggests the government of Nigeria is not being honest and ignoring the fact that the killings affects us all: Muslims and Christians. However, when whole worshipers in the Church are being kidnapped as a congregation/large numbers, should everyone pretend that this is just normal or mere criminality?
This is not so for the victims. In a sense, it is better listing Boko Haram and ISWAP on the entities of particular concern than nothing at all but this is insufficient. First, the Fulani herdsmen killers and Bandits will continue their present killing spree; as the Nigerian government has woefully failed to stop them for years now. Secondly, the denialism narratives being churned out by this government and her apologists will continue. Denialism is an unwritten and undocumented policy which has long been in practice beyond this present administration. Thirdly, people will lose faith in finding justice and will be tempted to resort to self-defense as a natural instinct. Fourthly, denialism sows seeds of revenge and retaliations which we must all act to stop in this country. Labelling what is going on in Nigeria as conflict/clash between Farmers-Herders is uninspiring. The issues are much deeper than such surface characterization of our complex reality.
As someone involved in peace building work with a reasonably sufficient knowledge, hearing from both sides, I can say fairly that no such clash exits. However, failure of State actors to act fairly and justly for the common good of all ethno-religious adherents in Nigeria has worsened our situation.
There exists, to me it seems, a disturbing strange relationship between the US government with the Nigerian government. This relationship does not always favor the peace loving people of Nigeria. This relationship as demonstrated by this policy of removing Nigeria from the CPC list will not serve the collective interest of the Nigerian people in the long run, but only US strategic interests. Such pandering in massaging the political ego of the Nigerian power elite suits the Nigerian government hurts its people both in the short and long term.
Government should exist for its people. I know this to be the case even in the US. However, this certainly isn’t the case in Nigeria. It is so strange the US government is encouraging in Nigeria what she won’t dare encourage in the US. With brutal killings going on with so much impunity in Nigeria, yet the US State department removed Nigeria’s name from the CPC Watch list?
I stand for peace building that is predicated on justice for all. I will continue to advocate for peaceful resolution of our challenges in Nigeria but nurturing systemic structures of social injustice hurts us all. Therefore, to me, removing Nigeria from the CPC list is a hypocritical and tacit way of encourage the present impunity and lawlessness. I pray this will not result in more killings in Nigeria. Such hypocritical policies are anchored on what I term softball diplomacy which is akin to playing the ostrich!
@ Gideon Para-Mallam – 18 Nov 2021