On more than one occasion, I have opened up a sermon by displaying a picture of persecuted Christians around the world and asking for prayers. We are blessed to be born in a country where we are not persecuted for our faith, and I know that my life could be different had I not been.
As a bilingual minister and an active member of the Christian community, I care about these rights deeply. During my time at home in this outbreak of COVID-19, I have spent some time reflecting on how interconnected our nations are. It breaks my heart knowing not all Christians can worship free of fear. Places like North Korea, China, and Iran have long been dangerous places for Christians to freely practice their faith. Due to escalating violence by Boko Haram and radical Fulani militants, Nigeria is quickly joining these ranks.
For centuries many ethnicities and religions have existed and thrived in Nigeria. Over the last few decades, terrorist organizations have used these differences to drive a wedge between different groups in the country, planting conflict throughout the region. The ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram and radical Fulani militants are murdering innocent civilians daily and an alarming number of victims are Christians. Over this past Christmas holiday, Boko Haram released a chilling video that documented terrorists slashing the throats of ten prisoners. The terrorists declared it a “message for Christians.” So far this year, at least one Christian has been killed every day in Nigeria. – every single day
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and has an extremely diverse population. Christians make up nearly half of the Nigerian population overall. While they represent a large portion of the electorate in Nigeria, the government remains deafeningly silent on these mass killings. Since 2008, over 40,000 fatalities have been recorded in the Boko Haram attacks. From June 2018 to June 2019, Fulani militants recorded over 2,800 fatalities.
In July 2019, the Jubilee Campaign, a nongovernmental international human rights organization, wrote a report to the International Criminal Court stating that, “the standard of genocide has now been reached” in Nigeria. The attacks in Nigeria are expected to increase, especially if the Nigerian government continues to take no action. President Mohammadu Buhari shows no real signs of cracking down on this violence.
As I continue to work hard on my grassroots-centered campaign for the Iowa State House, I believe that it is important for me to not only provide representation for Iowans at the state level but to be a voice for Iowa values at all levels of government. I have long been passionate about helping end religious persecution around the globe. While this issue may be beyond Iowa’s borders, even while we are addressing COVID-19. I know this is an issue Iowans continue to care about. There is no denying the crisis in Nigeria. It is time for the United States to be a leader on religious freedom once again and to consider appointing a special envoy to Nigeria in the Lake Chad region and to tie all economic and defense assistance to the Nigerian government to human rights reforms. I ask all Iowans to keep victims of persecutions in their prayers and their advocacy plans as they engage with local, state, and federal leaders this election cycle.