On 5-6 July this year, the fourth International Ministerial Conference for Freedom of Religion or Belief took place in London, hosted by the UK Foreign Ministry.
Despite the many important topics raised at the Ministerial, little attention was given to the crisis of sectarian violence in Nigeria, and even less to the campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Middle Belt, arguably the deadliest example of religious persecution in the world at present.
Several Nigerian activists and statesmen travelled to London to make their voices heard at the conference. Several others in Nigeria recorded video messages for the occasion. Their common request was for the United States to return Nigeria to its list of "Countries of Particular Concern" and for the United States and United Kingdom to engage to bring religious violence in Nigeria to an end.
Rev. Dr. Gideon Para-Mallam, of the Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, urged the United Kingdom to reject a culture of "denialism" about Nigeria and stop empowering bad actors in the country:
Rev. Hassan John, an activist who works for the Anglican Church in Nigeria and maintains contact with villages under attack by Fulani militias in the Middle Belt, presented the grim fact that 3,000 Christians have already been killed in Nigeria this year:
Rev. Hassan argued that "these attacks are a well-organized plan, with government complicity":
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, where more than 1.5 million Christians have been displaced by Fulani militia attacks, spoke of the dire situation in his state:
Gov. Ortom's message to the UK: tell the Nigerian federal government not to take sides with the jihadists attacking his citizens.
From Plateau State, Barrister Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria, spoke of the campaign to "forcibly Islamize" the Middle Belt, "genocide" against his people, and asked the U.S. to return Nigeria to the CPC list and pressure the Nigerian government to protect human life.
From Plateau State, Luka Binniyat, a journalist and human rights activist who has been imprisoned three times for his reporting on violence against Christians, told delegates to
"Today I am under intimidation and my family fears for my life. My biggest wish is that the international community should show more interest in the ongoing genocide of Christians in the Middle Belt."
The Ministerial concluded with a broad conference
statement, committing signatories to various actions in support of religious freedom, but with no mention of Nigeria or any other ongoing crisis of religious persecution.
Meanwhile, at home and abroad, Nigerians fighting for freedom and the survival of their communities continue to strive to be heard.
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