Christian Persecution In Nigeria Vis-A-Vis The Right To Freedom Of Association And Religion: A Wake-Up Call By Henry Eke-Steve - Welcome to Uju Ayalogu's Blog

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Saturday, 28 December 2019

Christian Persecution In Nigeria Vis-A-Vis The Right To Freedom Of Association And Religion: A Wake-Up Call By Henry Eke-Steve

Christian Persecution In Nigeria Vis-A-Vis The Right To Freedom Of Association And Religion: A Wake-Up Call By Henry Eke-Steve

Generally, persecution is defined as “any form of harassment or bad treatment based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation by a religious sect, individual or institution state, over another religious sect, state, individual or institution” etc. This is what is obtainable in a Christian versus other religious settings. 

There are many reasons why Christians are persecuted. Sometimes it is ethnic or cultural identity. Other times, a high value is placed on a majority religion that any other faith is seen as something to be rooted out and violently oppressed.

Christian persecution around the world is one of the biggest human right issues in our society today.

READ ALSO:    Sowore/Dasuki: International Rights group urges Buhari govt to stop clampdown on perceived enemies

However, according to statistics, seven out of the top 10 World Watch List countries facing oppression today can trace the root cause to religious oppression chiefly orchestrated by the Islamic sect usually referred to as the Tabliq movement. Overtime, this tabliq movement has spread across Nigeria in variant forms of nefarious act with a particular name in specific areas.

This, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up as Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly declaring a change of faith can attract dire consequences. They can be treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against in respect to employment or even violently attacked.

In the 2019 World Watch List reporting period, there were shocking details about the persecution experienced by Christian women. In many places, they experience “double persecution”—one for being Christians and the other for being of the feminine gender.

Even in the most restricted circumstances, gender-specific persecution is a key means of destroying the minority Christian community. This kind of persecution is difficult to assess because it is complex, violent and hidden.


Freedom of religion, like all other freedom such as freedom of thought and expression, is inherent. For instance, in Nigeria, there are violations of the freedom of expression, assembly, and religious belief and movement, in addition to extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, extended detention, torture, and indefinite national service, which cause many Nigerians to flee the country.

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration came as a result of the treatment of the Jews in Nazi Germany. The document states that every person is entitled to basic human rights.

This reaffirmed the dignity and worth of all human beings no matter what a person’s race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status is.

In 1966, the United Nations developed the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of the ICCPR focuses on four elements of religious freedom. The section states:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching

According to Thomas Jefferson, “The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” This is further enshrined in Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It states thus:

Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

No person attending any place of religious instructions or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance of such instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parents or guardian.

Freedom of Religion or belief is a universal human right. Despite this provision in our law, people are persecuted, displaced and murdered because of their religion. Nigeria on a daily base experience genocide, religious sites are being destroyed and buildings set ablaze.

Nigeria over two decades ago has been prone to severe persecutions especially through the tabliq movement. The tabliq movement being practiced in Nigeria particularly in the southern states- Edo, Delta, Rivers, Enugu and Anambra is the heinous activities of the Fulani herdsmen that have rendered a lot of persons homeless and jobless.

Christians have been killed and violated in raids perpetrated by Fulani herdsman (this is predominant in the south west and eastern region of Nigeria) and Boko Haram (predominant in the Northern region).

It’s rather life threatening especially to women and children, so much so that the conditions are worsening day by day. Despite the protection of religious liberty rights under international law, “…the violations of religious freedom worldwide are massive, widespread, and in many parts of the world intensifying.”

This vile and evil act at a point spurred the peace of president Donald Trump and led him to speak up for beleaguered Christians in Nigeria at a white house meeting with our dear president Muhammadu Buhari .

Christian persecution has led and is still leading lots of Nigerians to flee the country; as they can no longer stand the killings, violations, pains, deprivation and agony meted on them by persons who on the basis of religious differences see others as less humans than they are.

This issue is more compounded by the fact that the populace in the southern and eastern part of Nigeria, are majorly Christians. The reckless invasion of their communities has thrown the government into a looming state of ignorance having no viable ways to combat the issue.

Obviously, the most alienable right is no longer sacred but a mere existing right; thereby posing negative effects on national development. The effect of the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram’s activities cannot be over emphasized; hereunder they are enumerated.

Firstly is the indisputable fact that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen have created a huge economic setback in Nigeria today. The evil act causes discouragement of foreign investment on any society. The incessant attacks by the Fulani herdsmen scare away foreigners who have come to Nigeria to do business.

In the course of the attacks, lives and properties, public companies, and industries are destroyed. These Fulani herdsmen in the last few years have taken a rather more offensive onslaught in states like Edo and Delta States, crumbling the rather rich agricultural states.

Secondly, it causes increase in unemployment gap. This is because most companies and industries are destroyed during such crisis, and as a consequence, it takes owners of these businesses time to rebuild their destroyed business centres.

While this is going on, their employees either go in search for other jobs; and those who decide to stay back, have to wait a long period without work. They add to the number of unemployed youths that are roaming our streets. This spate of unemployment has led to crimes as kidnapping, robbery and stealing, making lives more miserable.

Thirdly, it causes changes in population size. People living in areas experiencing frequent Fulani herdsmen attacks usually relocate to areas not prone to attacks. This is what has been happening in southern states (Anambra, Enugu, Edo, Delta and Rivers).

It is this ethno-socio-religious crisis that causes the young citizens to leave the shores of the country as a result of the brutal and devastating effect of the crises that has made a lot homeless. It is common knowledge that whenever herdsmen carry out an attack, people are killed in tens, hundreds or thousands and properties worth hundreds of thousands of naira are destroyed.

This is a wakeup call on the government. Hence, there is great need for the Government to look into the mess and create a long term strategy as the evil is spreading beyond control. Its negative effect in the lives of citizens outweighs the enjoyment of the constitutional right. 

What justification is left when the most inalienable freedom of religion in Nigeria has been reduced into a mere right rather than a fundamental right. These circumstances indicate that an incremental approach on the part of the government may be most effective.

However, as Nigerians and its partners move forward, it will be important to coordinate around human security in a way that is respectful of human rights, integrates a gendered perspective, include the provision of development services and infrastructure, and implements measures to demobilize and reintegrate former insurgents in ways that are sensitive to community concerns.

READ ALSO:    ISWAP execution of Christians: Nnamdi Kanu vows to make damning revelations on Buhari, El-Rufai, cabal’s involvement

REFERENCES

1. Christopher I. Ndubuisi, A critical analysis of conflicts between Herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria. Available at http://www.scielo.org.za

2. Okechukwu Dominic Nwankwo, P.hd, Precious Rosemary Ike, Paschal Kandalichukwu  Officha, Psychological Implications of Fulani Herdsmen Religio- organizational terrorism in Eastern Nigeria (Biafra)( British Journal of Psychology Research) vol 7, No.3, 14-27, June 2019

3. Rainer Rothfuss, Yakubu Joseph, “Threats to religious freedom in Nigeria: Analysis of a complex scenario” (2019) Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259029651

4. 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( as amended)

5. 2019 World Watch List reporting period, November 1, 2017-October 31, 2018.

6. https://stability journal.org/articles/10.5334/started.427/print

7. https://www.opendorsusa.org/christians-persecution accessed on 26/12/2019

8. 2019, The Washington Times

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