Many of our nation’s earliest pioneers came to America to escape religious persecution in their home country. They struggled and persevered to establish a Christian society founded on the principle of giving to those in need in the name of God. This “City Upon a Hill” philosophy shaped the early national identity and would come to be a pillar of the American spirit.
Americans have long embraced the idea of national exceptionalism. With unabashed certainty, we have established ourselves as moral and economic leaders for the rest of the world. This title comes with great responsibility. In an era where Christians are experiencing persecution around the globe, it is more important than ever for Americans to serve as spiritual leaders and commit to helping fellow Christians in need.
Violence against Christians is a global problem. In its 2020 data report, Open Doors USA highlighted a drastic increase in attacks against Christian buildings and the imprisonment of Christians. Of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians, Nigeria has emerged as one of the most violent.
Christians make up nearly half of Nigeria’s population of approximately 196 million people. In 2019, more than 1,000 Christians were killed by Fulani militants in Nigeria. The Fulani militants are religious extremists derived from a group of nomadic herdsmen who terrorize Christians living in more temperate regions of the country. More than 6,000 individuals have been slaughtered in this conflict since 2011. In a nation already terrorized by Boko Haram, Fulani violence has created nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.
Fulani violence against Christians is escalating, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has yet to take any decisive action on behalf of the oppressed. Entire villages have been decimated by Fulani militants, and nearly 1.8 million Nigerians have been displaced in the process. Many of these refugees are forced to flee to neighboring countries where they face serious problems finding food, water, shelter, and other basic needs.
In July 2019, the Jubilee Campaign, an international human rights nongovernmental organization, wrote a report to the International Criminal Court stating that “the standard of genocide has now been reached” in Nigeria. Christians are being killed daily, young girls are being kidnapped from schools and held hostage until they denounce Jesus Christ, and churches are being torched by the thousands. Yet rarely do these horrific events make our evening news.
If the United States is to remain true to our founding as a religiously free nation, we have to do everything in our power to share this freedom in places like Nigeria. President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary of State Pompeo must bring attention to the Nigerian crisis with a formal acknowledgment of the crisis. Furthermore, I urge the State Department to designate Nigeria a country of special concern and to send a special envoy to the beleaguered region. The United States must step up and be the global example for religious freedom once again.
- Pastor Roger Caliger