Categories
Christianity Today Published Articles Religious Freedom

Will US List Nigeria Again After Latest Religious Freedom Report?

Image: Ron Przysucha / US Department of State

Nigeria—and a few other nations—are on alert.

The US Department of State released its 2021 annual report on international religious freedom (IRF) last week, describing conditions in nearly 200 nations. Delivering remarks from the Benjamin Franklin room—where US ambassadors are sworn into service—Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a litany of well-known offenders.

China, he said, continues its genocide against Uighur Muslims.

Saudi Arabia makes illegal the practice of any faith besides Islam.

Pakistan sentences people to death for blasphemy.

And Eritrea demands renunciation of faith to release the arrested members of religious minorities.

“Respect for religious freedom isn’t only one of the deepest held values and a fundamental right,” Blinken stated. “It’s also, from my perspective, a vital foreign policy priority.”

Last November, these four nations were among the 10 Blinken designated as countries of particular concern (CPC). A separate special watch list (SWL) listed four more: Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

But three days after the IRF report release, a terrorist attack in Nigeria highlighted its omission. Dozens of Christians were gunned down in a Catholic church on Pentecost Sunday. And one month earlier, a Christian college student was murdered by a mob over her alleged blasphemy against Islam.

Back in April, the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its own list of nonbinding CPC recommendations, reminding Blinken it was “appalled” at the omission of Nigeria. After listing Africa’s most populous nation as a CPC for the first time in 2020, the State Department removed…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on June 6, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

Categories
Christianity Today Published Articles Religious Freedom

Summit Produces a ‘Pentecost’ Moment for International Religious Freedom

Image: Hailey Sadler / IRF Summit
Previous IRF ambassador David Saperstein speaks at the 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington.

One word floated forebodingly between parentheses throughout promotional material for the 2021 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit:

Invited.

Following the names of Nancy Pelosi, Antony Blinken, and Samantha Power, it indicated uncertainty if the key Democratic stalwarts would participate.

As the approximately 1,200 registered attendees arrived, the distributed official program still did not include the current House speaker, secretary of state, or USAID administrator.

However, Mike Pompeo, Blinken’s predecessor at the US State Department, had a keynote address from the stage.

“There were a lot of questions heading into this summit, with a lot of hesitancy from the Biden people,” summit co-chair Sam Brownback told CT. “But we worked hard to make it bipartisan.”

Unlike the previous two ministerial meetings held in Washington, DC (and a third held virtually in Poland), this year’s IRF gathering was organized by civil society, not governments.

Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom during the Trump administration, was now a private citizen. He partnered with Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, who was appointed by former Democratic senator Harry Reid.

Brownback chased the Republicans, and Lantos Swett the Democrats. Their friendship, Pam Pryor, senior advisor to the summit, told CT, is the “gold standard” in bipartisan cooperation. In the end, Lantos Swett was relatively…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on July 19, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.