US Religious Freedom Report Indicts Nigeria for impunity

22 May 2013

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 President Goodluck Jonathan

The United States of America on Monday released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2012.

The report indicted many countries across the world, including Nigeria, especially on impunity.

In support of religious freedom, the US Congress, 15 years ago, passed the International Religious Freedom Act.

It also established within the executive branch the position of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom headed by Suzan Johnson Cook.
The report,which according to an online news medium, is very comprehensive, comprises almost 200 individual reports on countries and territories.

Each report sets forth the laws, policies and practices of governments; describes the nature of societal respect for religious freedom; and highlights the specific efforts that the US government made in each country to promote respect for religious freedom.

Some reports document religious bigotry, hatred, and oppression.
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said at the presentation of the report in Washington: “Freedom of religion is a core American value. It’s one that helped to create our country. It’s been at the centre of our national consciousness since the 1600s, when the pilgrims fled rebellious – religious persecution and landed in my home state of Massachusetts.

“And many of these folks settled in the city of Salem, which takes its name from the words “salaam” or “shalom,” meaning “peace”.”

The report particularly detailed some of the atrocities committed by the dreaded Islamist sect, Boko Haram, in the name of religion.

It noted that the sustained attacks by the insurgents that have led to loss of thousands of lives were aimed at causing religious war.

It states: “In Nigeria, Boko Haram extremists violently murdered hundreds of Christians and Muslims during the year. The group often targeted political and ethnic rivals, religious leaders, businesses, homes, police stations, military installations, churches, mosques, and rural villages, using assault rifles, bombs, suicide car bombings, and suicide vests.

“Boko Haram claimed responsibility for many of the 15 church attacks that killed more than 150 people, including scores of Christians, during worship services.

“Some Muslim and Christian religious leaders alleged that Boko Haram sought to incite hostilities between Muslims and Christians and to spark reprisals in the Northern and Middle Belt states, where local laws, discriminatory employment practices, and fierce competition for land exacerbated communal tensions.”

The report therefore carpeted the federal government for promoting impunity, noting that government failed during the year under review to act swiftly by punishing those culpable of communal clash and those who abuse religious freedom.

The report said: “In many parts of the world, government officials, no matter how serious the offence, often acted with impunity, abusing individuals for holding or expressing their beliefs without being called to account by courts or government authorities.

“Governments exacerbated religious tensions within society through discriminatory laws and rhetoric, fomenting violence, fostering a climate of impunity, and failing to ensure the rule of law.

“In Nigeria, the government did not act swiftly or effectively to quell communal violence or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for such violence and for abusing religious freedom. Federal, state, and local authorities did not effectively address underlying political, economic, ethnic, and religious grievances leading to violence.

“An atmosphere of impunity existed, as authorities rarely investigated, prosecuted, and punished those responsible for violent attacks and sometimes responded to violence with heavy-handed tactics.”

Kerry commented further on the report: “The release of this report is an important part of those efforts. This report is a clear-eyed, objective look at the state of religious freedom around the world.

“And when necessary, yes, it does directly call out some of our close friends, as well as some countries with whom we seek stronger ties. And it does so in order to try to make progress, even though we know that it may cause some discomfort.”

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