The Obama Administration Neglects Nigeria Again

Last week the White House announced the details of President Obama’s trip to Africa next month. President Obama will be going to only three African countries: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. Nigeria, which was originally thought to be on the agenda, has been left out of the itinerary.

This is not President Obama first trip to Africa. During his first term he traveled to Africa and like this trip neglected to visit Nigeria. In the wake of the mounds of evidence of attacks on Christians and other minorities this trip should take precedence to support an ally. No explanation has been given as to Nigeria’s exclusion from this trip.

The only explanation Jubilee can find for this exclusion is the Obama Administrations disapproval of President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency . It is the U.S. State Department’s belief that declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organization would alienate Boko Haram and stop their ability to cooperate with its members. Jubilee’s question is what good is cooperation if it does not lead to even a reduction in the number of attacks?

Prominent African-American commentator Armstrong Williams also has pointed out that the United States should be supporting Nigeria in its efforts to stop Boko Haram’s take over of northern states rather than criticizing efforts to restore peace as the Secretary of State Kerry had done during his trip to sub-Saharan Africa last month.  Mr. Williams wrote, “Given the strategic implications of the fight now underway in Nigeria, the U.S. should be looking for additional ways to assist, as opposed to publicly chiding the government there.”

Although condemning acts of violence by Boko Haram, the State Department repeatedly declares support for “legitimate grievances” it claims Boko Haram endorses, although all public Boko Haram declarations and interviews only describe the imposition of Sharia law as its motivation for violence.  Offering amnesty and cooperation is a form of condoning the violence and endorsing the goal to impose Sharia law and displace the democratic Nigerian government. No credit has been given to the Christian population in Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria, for their restraint from retaliatory violence.

If the Obama administration is choosing not to go to Nigeria on the grounds that it is too high risk of a visit, we believe that this only goes to prove the seriousness of the situation and the need for engagement from the Obama administration. The US government has designated three of Boko Haram’s prominent leaders as terrorists but refuses to name the group as a whole terroristic. This is concerning and confusing. This terror group has already claimed the lives of people from 15 different nations and risked the lives of two American’s during the UN bombing in Abuja. What more will it take?

Nigeria is known to be the US’s tie to Africa. It is the US’s top trading partner in Africa, largest African immigrant group in the US, and a major strategic partner for Bilateral communication in Africa. Now it seems that the US will isolate Nigeria at a time when Nigeria needs the US most to encourage democratic development. Obama is widely admired in Nigeria and a visit during this strategic time could provoke change and democratic fervor. Jubilee is deeply saddened by the Obama Administrations decision to leave Nigeria’s side when needed most.

JC Event – Congressional Briefing, Crisis in Northern Nigeria: An Update Thursday, April 25th 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Cannon House Office Building, Room 234

(Lunch will be provided)

Continuing violence by the Islamist group Boko Haram in 2012 and into 2013 has left over 1000 Christians dead and numerous churches destroyed or damaged. Although northern Nigeria accounts for more deaths of Christians in 2012 than the rest of the world combined, a soft-pedal approach towards Nigerian Islamists by the U.S. Department of State is allowing Nigeria to be pushed to the brink of civil war in the wake of a pre-genocide. This 2nd Biennial briefing by Justice for Jos, a Project of Jubilee Campaign, in collaboration with the Washington Working Group on Nigeria, will present an update on the terrorist insurgency of Boko Haram by international and Nigerian experts who will provide first-hand testimony on recent events, local as well as international efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and a report documenting the 2012 atrocities.

Experts Include:

Emmanuel Ogebe, Special Counsel Justice for Jos, engaged at the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity in Nigeria and lead author of the 2012 report by Jubilee Campaign and Justice for Jos Project.

Edward Pwajok, Attorney General, Plateau State.

Former Federal Congresswoman Martha Bodunrin, who buried 500 constituents after the Dogo Nahawa massacre of March 2010.

Mark Lipdo, Stefanos Foundation, which is monitoring and tracking attacks in Nigeria as well as helping to care for victims.

The Honorable Zainab Dogo, a female Muslim Member of the Plateau State House of Assembly.

Laolu Akande – Executive Director of the Christian Association of Nigerian Americans who led a recent relief effort to Nigeria.

State Congresswoman Rifkatu Samson – the only female member and sole Christian in Bauchi State House of Assembly, suspended for over a year for speaking out on behalf of her Christian constituency.

Mindy Belz, an American journalist who toured northern Nigeria at a time when Westerners were being killed.

Please RSVP to info@westminster-institute.org

For questions about the event, please contact Kelley McLean, Jubilee Campaign 703-503-0791

We look forward to seeing you.

Jubilee Campaign Invites You to the 2nd Biennial Justice for Jos Human Rights Report 4/26 at 11 am

In view of the alarming statistics that more Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2012, than the rest of the world combined, Jubilee is working hard to draw global attention to what our Nigeria expert has termed the “Pre-Genocide.”

Justice for Jos,  a Project of Jubilee Campaign in collaboration with the Washington Working Group on Nigeria, invite you to “A Report Release of the documented 2012 Atrocities in Nigeria:The 2nd Biennial Justice for Jos Pre-Genocide Report.”

Please find below the tentative program for the 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. April 26 Nigeria Event to be held at the Family Research Council, 801 G Street NW, Washington DC.

Invited guests include human rights workers, government representatives, community leaders from Europe and Africa:

Former Federal Congresswoman Martha Bodunrin who buried 500 of her constituents after the horrendous Dogo Nahawa massacre of March 2010.

Attorney General Edward Pwajok of Plateau State responsible for prosecuting perpetrators.

Barrister Greg Lar who represents the victims families.

Mark Lipdo whose Stefanos Foundation cared for over 1350 victims of persecution in 2012.

Emmanuel Ogebe, Special Counsel for Justice for Jos who is engaged at the International Criminal Court on the crimes against humanity legal aspects of the Nigerian situation.

Frans Veerman from World Watch Monitor who researched and determined Nigeria as the most violent place in the world for Christians.

Mindy Belz from World Magazine, went on a daring fact-finding visit to several of the most dangerous states in Nigeria. She reported on the Nigerian situation at a time when westerners were being killed by terrorists.

State Congresswoman Rifkatu Samson, the only female member and sole Christian in Bauchi State House of Assembly who has been suspended for over a year for speaking out on behalf of her Christian constituency.

Others who will be speaking about peacebuilding and interfaith efforts are:

Hon Tigwar Zainab Naanzem, a female Muslim Member of the Plateau State House of Assembly

Chris Kwaja,  the government’s Director of Research and a conflict resolution professor at the University of Jos,

Mrs Julie Makama, a gender activist working with Woman Without Walls

Alhaji Dauda Lamba, a Muslim Advisor to Plateau state on religious matters

 

Below please find the tentative program for the April 26th Seminar: 

Panel 1:

  • Where are all the children gone?
    •  Revisiting the Dogo Nahawa Massacres 3 years after
  • The ghost of a community in collective trauma
    • The justice update
    • The current crisis
  •  Q and A

Break for Lunch Provided

Panel 2:

  • Interfaith Effort in Peace Building
  •  Muslims in Plateau State
  •  Q and A

Panel 3:

  • New Frontier Boko Haram and Post Election Violence
  • An Overview of the Calendar
  • Humanitarian Concerns: Those Left Behind
  • Q and A

Conclusion:

  • Failed US Policy
  • The Cry For Help

 

Please RSVP by sending an email to jubilee@jubileecampaign.org, stating your name and affiliation.
We look forward to seeing you.

Prayers For North Korea

Thursday night I attended a dinner held by the North Korean Freedom Coalition, to which Jubilee Campaign serves on the board.

During this meeting, one of the defectors explained to us what freedom meant to her in North Korea versus what it means to her now. The passion in her eyes glittered as she took pride in the fact that she was now truly free. She had endured such suffering and saw so much pain in North Korea she could only dream of what freedom could mean. It had been an intangible foreign idea that could not be fully grasped or felt but she somehow knew it was an important right she deserved.

She also described the balloon drops facilitated by South Koreans and North Korea defectors. At first, she said, she had not understood their importance and was upset because there were crackdowns and retaliations upon the North Korean people after each balloon drop. She explained they were punished for the balloon drops they didn’t request or control. Later, she realized the significance of those balloons was information about and hope from the outside world. For years the North Korean people did not get outside information and the party had control over all news. These balloons were and still are one of the few ways news was and is smuggled in. The Party’s crackdowns only show their lessening stranglehold over North Korean knowledge of the outside world. This crackdown is a scared reaction to the inevitable reality that they are losing control of information. As she concluded, she said, those balloons have become a symbol of hope for a free North Korea.

Listening to her story made me think of my absurd frustration over the traffic heavy drive to the dinner. I have so many first world problems that I complain about daily and take for granted the basic rights I enjoy daily that many people simply don’t have.

As I sat in the room listening to her story I thought of the grace the Lord has given me. I thanked Him for my first world struggles and for His love and grace. I know I was born here in this free nation so I could have a voice, a voice to be used for God’s kingdom. I was born with this free voice so I could speak for those without a voice and without freedom to openly worship Him.

Thank you Lord for the people of North Korea. Please put your healing hand over this nation. Thank you for the power of this voice you gave me. Thank you for the freedom I have to use it. Thank you for the passion you have put behind this voice. Thank you for your love and your promise.

Amen

UN recognizes decline in International Religious Freedom, Deadlocked on Solutions

By Ann Buwalda

During the United Nations Human Rights Council which is in session this month, more than 40 countries addressed the interactive dialogue segment with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, expressing widespread support of his reports and activities as well as an extension of his mandate.  A number of countries referred to growing violence, indicating a trend and coming very close to consensus.  The United States acknowledged, “religious freedom is sliding backward.”  The European Union stated it “condemns recent attacks.”  Austria pointed out growing discrimination and rising attacks in various parts of the world against minorities; and Italy condemned extremist and radical groups resorting to violent purposes. When it came to finding solutions for this growing problem, consensus was notably absent.

Several countries in the Middle East decried rising discrimination and intolerance towards Muslims living in Western countries.  Bahrain pointed to the harassment against Muslim women which it said has caused “appalling consequences which offends the conscience of Muslim people.”  To counter this, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia highlighted their efforts in hosting conferences to encourage interfaith dialogues.  Several Muslim majority countries endorsed the Resolution known as “Resolution 16/18” which refers to the U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution initiated by the Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC) and passed in early 2011 on “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.”  Many believe that Resolution 16/18 curtails the freedom of expression.  Pakistan, speaking for the OIC, stated that there will be a breakdown of consensus if countries back away from the plan of action set forth in Resolution 16/18, which the United States explicitly also endorsed.  Although Turkey was pleased that Resolution 16/18 was referenced by the Special Rapporteur, it expressed disappointment that the Special Rapporteur made no reference in his report to Islamaphobia.  Turkey stated that manifestations of Islamaphobia give rise to alienation of the Islamic community.  Bangladesh also blamed increased violence on the increase in defaming of religion which creates vulnerable situations.

Switzerland declared that states should rescind all criminal provisions of apostasy and blasphemy.  France also explicitly called for the abolishment of all criminalizing blasphemy laws.  Italy referred to extremist and radical groups resorting to violence, and endorsed the “Rabat plan of action” on prevention of genocide to establish an early warning system.  More information is given about this below.

The Special Rapporteur’s report (A/HRC/22/51, December 24, 2012) to the Human Rights Council focused on describing the legal framework for “the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities” to exercise their religious freedom of belief and this includes practice.  This use of “rights of persons” which Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt refers to is undergirded by prior international human rights instruments which call for the protection of the religious freedom right as an individual right.  He stated in the preamble to his report, “the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities cannot be confined to members of certain predefined groups.  Instead, they should be open to all persons who live de facto in the situation of a minority and are in need of special protection to facilitate a free and non-discriminatory development of their individual and communitarian identities.”  After outlining the conceptual framework to protect religious freedom of all persons, he describes patterns of typical violations by states and by non-state actors.

Prof. Bielefeldt explained that he chose this theme because anti-minority discrimination or persecution is all too prevalent around the world.  Numerous patterns of persecution were described and illustrated within his comprehensive report.  He called for the non-discrimination within state institutions such as “the accessibility of public positions in administration, public services, police forces, the military and public health to everyone regardless of their religious or belief orientations.”

Some countries disingenuously responded by pointing out how their Constitution and other laws do not discriminate, including China, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Kuwait; each of which referred to articles purporting equality in their constitutions.  Germany noted its federal government strives to support churches and religious communities and recognizes that every citizen has the right to freely profess or join or not to or to leave or change religion.  Cuba claims it maintains good relations with over 400 religious institutions.  Algeria, India, and Malaysia refer to the freedoms within their laws or ethos, thereby affording freedom and protection to minorities to manage their own affairs.  Sierra Leone detailed its extensive experience with religious tolerance within and between its Muslim and Christian religious communities, offering others to come and learn from its religious harmony.

In reality, Christians and other religious minorities, particularly in Egypt and in Pakistan, experience a hierarchy of rights, which are explicitly recognized in law and expounded upon in court cases, particularly those relating to the religion category on identification cards. The Special Rapporteur refers to this issue in Paragraph 70 of his report.  As an example of this derogation of rights, Egyptian officials and courts have consistently refused to change the religious notation of those who are initially categorized as Muslims. This has occurred both when an individual exercised his Article 18 right under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to change his faith as well as when the individual has always been Christian and was never a Muslim.  Without naming a particular country the Special Rapporeur noted the pattern of infringement of the right of religious minorities to educate their children in their chosen religion.  The effect in Egypt of preventing a convert who left Islam from changing his or her religion on the national identity card is that the children are required to take Islamic religion classes in school.  In addition, religious minorities such as the Bahai in Egypt are unable to reflect their true religious identity on the national ID cards at all; a predicament which Ahmadis in Pakistan face when applying for a passport.

The Special Rapportuer correctly identified the plight of migrant workers who are denied the legitimacy of their religious practice and persecuted for attempting to worship.  In her oral statement, Ann Buwalda of Jubilee Campaign stated that a “recent example of this is the arrest of 53 Ethiopian Christians in Saudi Arabia in February of 2013 for holding a meeting in a private home, many of whom remain detained. Another example is the dozens of Coptic Christians in Libya who were arrested in late February 2013. While some of them have been released, others remain in prison and some had acid poured on their wrists to remove the Coptic cross tattoo. While in both cases allegations of proselytization were made, both of these groups appear to be largely made up of migrant workers who were peacefully and quietly practicing their own faith.”  During the interactive dialogue, Costa Rica explicitly decried the “deporting of religious minorities” which may have been a reference to the above situations although no incident or country was directly named.

Resolution 16/18, which the OIC bloc repeatedly mentioned, was negotiated between Egypt and the United States in 2010 and was intended to end the virulent division over the Defamation of Religions Resolution, which advocated restricting speech in what amounted to a global blasphemy law. In a meeting with non-governmental organizations on March 7, the Special Rapporteur noted that Resolution 16/18 could be read within a framework of human rights, protecting human beings rather than ideas, and represented a move away from the defamation language. However, Professor Bielefeldt preferred to focus on the Rabat Plan of Action, which was produced by a process of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights workshops on incitement. The first workshops actually predate Resolution 16/18 and Professor Bielefeldt was careful to stress that there was no direct relationship between the two documents.

Jubilee Campaign’s Side Event “Respecting Religious Freedom: Legally Safeguarding a Threatened Right” recognized that the greatest causes of violations of religious freedom are institutional injustices, laws which deny the full exercise of religious freedom. We echoed the calls of Switzerland and France for the abolition of blasphemy and apostasy laws, which are in open violation of human rights. Our event also focused on India’s anti-conversion laws and on Europe’s hate-speech and incitement laws, which seriously threaten religious freedom in those countries and are often overlooked at the Human Rights Council. In order to enjoy the full exercise of religious freedom, which is protected by Article 18 of the ICCPR these laws should be repealed.

Although consensus has not yet been reached on the process to reverse the serious deterioration of religious freedom and growing religious violence, the fact that most states agree that the violence requires a solution will hopefully lead to efforts to achieve a reduction in religious based violence.  The Special Rapporteur is committed to the Rabat Plan of Action, and the various countries endorsing this plan should quickly pursue a rapid response to the early warnings mechanisms of identifying dealing with potentially violent and tense situations.