Nigeria Elections on Saturday Crucial for Persecuted Christians
Save the Persecuted Christians Has Been Urging a U.S. Special Envoy to Nigeria; Sitting Nigerian President Says Violence by Boko Haram Has Been ‘Curbed,’ Yet Thousands of Believers Continue to Be Targeted
WASHINGTON—For many years, radical militants in Nigeria have waged war against Christians. With the Nigerian presidential elections set for this Saturday, Feb. 16, Christians especially could experience targeted violence and bloodshed in a nation of constant unrest.
For this reason, Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), which advocates on behalf of more than 300 million persecuted Christians around the globe, is urging the Trump administration to take action in Nigeria through the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy.
A recent oped in The Christian Post about the escalating crisis in Nigeria was written at the start of the 2019 congressional session by two respected former members of the House of Representatives—Republican Frank Wolf and Democrat Tony Hall. Together, they laid out the need for a special envoy to help stave off further, destabilizing violence against Christians there.
“Frank Wolf and Tony Hall offer a ready course of action that may help stave off a greater catastrophe in Nigeria—the designation of a U.S. Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region,” said Save the Persecuted Christians Director Dede Laugesen. “They recall that former Sen. John Danforth’s appointment to such a post at a moment of similar crisis in Sudan was decisively constructive in forging a coordinated and effective policy approach in Washington and championing it in Kharthoum.”
Leading up to this weekend’s election, Nigeria’s sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari, has said the Islamist militant group Boko Haram’s “criminal activities” have been “curbed” under his leadership, BBC News reported. “His political opponents disagree and say the situation has recently deteriorated both in terms of the number of attacks and kidnappings by the group.”
The 6,000 Christians who were murdered in Nigeria in the first half of 2018 are sobering evidence Buhari’s opponents are correct. This figure is made known on Save the Persecuted Christians traveling exhibit called “The People of the Cross,” which displays heartbreaking photos and facts, and details the tragedy that children, women, the elderly and Christians in general experience when persecuted in countries around the world.
The Nigeria banner reads: “Human rights groups describe Muslim Fulani and Boko Haram jihadi attacks as ‘war by Islam to eliminate Christianity.’ Unhindered by Nigeria’s leaders, who are Islamists, these attacks threaten to cleanse Nigeria of Christians—roughly half the population.”
Boko Haram has been active in northeastern Nigeria for well over a decade, and have infiltrated the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and more than two million displaced over the past decade, BBC also reported, and in 2015, Boko Haram was ranked the world’s deadliest terror group by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Seeking congressional support for the critical appointment of a special envoy, Save the Persecuted Christians leaders have sent Wolf and Hall’s oped, along with a letter detailing the pressing need, to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as to other members of Congress.
As Wolf and Hall noted, “Terrorists associated with Boko Haram and Fulani militants are slaughtering, enslaving, expelling and otherwise persecuting a growing number of Nigerian Christians. Some Muslims have also been killed. Nigeria’s government has not been successful in preventing such horrors and their traumatic effects are rippling throughout the nation and neighboring states in the Lake Chad region. Unless something is done at once, Nigeria may implode, prompting incalculable suffering for its people and the prospect of many millions of them fleeing, posing what rock star Bono has warned would be ‘an existential threat to Europe.’”
Each of 24 banners in “The People of the Cross” exhibit feature images, facts and quotes from recent news stories about the persecution of Christians in multiple countries, such as North Korea, where Christians are tortured or worse; Syria, where Christian girls and women have been sold into sex slavery; and China, where Communists are increasingly hostile to people of faith and churches and shrines are being demolished. A majority of the countries highlighted in the banners are high on the 2019 World Watch List from Open Doors USA.
The exhibit premiered in July 2018 at the U.S. Capitol as a side event to the first-ever U.S. Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Since then, it has toured the United States, reaching tens of thousands. “The People of the Cross” exhibit is available for churches, public venues and special events. To learn more about hosting “The People of the Cross,” contact Save the Persecuted Christians or visit the website, where all the panels are available to view online.
The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by holding the persecutors accountable and creating costs for their crimes against humanity. To that end, it will disseminate actionable information about the magnitude of such crimes and bring to bear a movement of concerned Americans determined to hold persecutors accountable for such crimes and create real costs for perpetrating them against those who follow Jesus.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, which released its biannual report on Religious Freedom in the World in November, over 300 million Christians experience persecution. According to Open Doors, 245 million Christians are victims of high to extreme levels of persecution (i.e., torture, rape, sex-slavery, expulsion, murder and genocide), an increase of 14 percent over 2018. Open Doors also estimates 1 in 9 of the world’s Christians experience persecution and that every month: 345 Christians are killed, often in public and without regard to gender or age; 219 Christians are abducted and imprisoned indefinitely without trial; and 106 churches are demolished.
Because most of these crimes are not covered in the media, Save the Persecuted Christians developed a dedicated news aggregator—www.ChristianPersecutionNews.com—to capture current instances of persecution and to provide readers an easy way to share these heartbreaking stories with others.
With so much of the world’s Christian population being attacked, imprisoned and/or exiled for their beliefs, like those in Nigeria, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.