WASHINGTON (BP) — Citing the murder of “hundreds” of Christians in Nigeria in June by a Boko Haram faction, U.S. religious freedom advocates urged the Nigerian government to intervene to protect religious freedom there.
The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram faction, is blamed for three June attacks in Northeast Nigeria that killed at least 121 and injured hundreds of residents of Christian villages, according to news reports. At least 20 Nigerian soldiers were also killed.
The United States Commission on international Religious Freedom (USCIRF) encouraged the Nigerian government to protect religious freedoms under attack there.
“The Nigerian government needs to be doing more to protect the freedom of religion, particularly in the northeast region,” USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins, a Southern Baptist, said in a June 22 press release. “Over two years after ISWAP abducted Leah Sharibu, it is unacceptable to see the group continue to inflict such devastation on the Nigerian people.”
Sharibu is the only student still captive from a February 2018 attack on a Dapchi school. ISWAP, then known as ISIS-WA, abducted 110 girls, killing five of them. Most of the students, 104, were returned to their families, but Sharibu was retained because she refused to convert to Islam, it was widely reported.
In the June 22 statement, USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava referenced hundreds of deaths.
“Hundreds have died in recent weeks as ISWAP continues to inflict terror and target civilians based on their beliefs,” Bhargava said. “Recent ISWAP attacks on innocent civilians are reprehensible. We condemn this deplorable violence.”
In the latest incident, ISWAP took responsibility for killing at least 40 civilians and 20 soldiers in attacks in two Borno villages June 13, Reuters News Agency reported. Hundreds were injured in crossfire between soldiers and ISWAP, sources told Reuters.
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Source: Baptist Press