President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

US blacklists Nigeria for ‘religious freedom violations’

The United States of America has announced its decision to blacklist Nigeria for “engaging (in) systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations”.

This development was announced by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo on Twitter on Monday. He said the US will continue to act when “religious freedom is attacked.”

Nigeria was not alone on the list, and other countries on the list included China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea.

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While Secretary Pompeo did not explicitly state why Nigeria was blacklisted, he did say that “no country or entity should be allowed to persecute people with impunity because of their beliefs”.

“Today the U.S. designates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, the DPRK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as countries of concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations,” he wrote in his tweet.

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“The U.S. is unwavering in its commitment to religious freedom. No country or entity should be allowed to persecute people with impunity because of their beliefs. These annual designations show that when religious freedom is attacked, we will act.

“The U.S. is sanctioning the senior leadership of China’s National People’s Congress in connection with developing, adopting, and implementing the National Security Law. We will hold Beijing accountable for destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy. #StandWithHongKong #FightForFreedom.”

The international religious freedom report describes the status of religious freedom in every country and covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals.

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In its 2019 country report on human rights practices, the US had expressed concerns over the high rate of religious intolerance in various parts of the country following acts often perpetuated by state actors.

When a country is blacklisted like Nigeria has, congress is first notified of the development.

“And where non-economic policy options designed to bring about cessation of the particularly severe violations of religious freedom have reasonably been exhausted, an economic measure generally must be imposed,” the US Department of State says.

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