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ICC Note:  The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has expressed grave concerns over the rise in religious violence in Nigeria over the past several months.  During this time, ruthless attacks by Boko Haram on both Christian and Muslim civilians have greatly increased.  Many of these assaults have been carried out against those practicing their faith in unsuspecting churches and mosques.  Furthermore, USCIRF also acknowledged the continued violence of predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen against agrarian Christians in in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt”.  In 2009, USIRF recommended that Nigeria be classified as a country of “particular concern” because of alarming religious freedom abuses.  Although USIRF noted that the government of Nigeria does not commit acts of religious intolerance, governmental corruption as well as corruption and rights abuses within the military has allowed for continued rises in religious violence to spread.      

7/17/15, Washington, D.C. (USIRF) – Hundreds of people have been killed in Boko Haram terrorist attacks throughout northern Nigeria and in sectarian violence in the Middle Belt during the past two months. The July 20 meeting in Washington D.C. between President Barack Obama and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari offers both nations the opportunity to reinvigorate their commitment to, and develop initiatives that would, help curb both types of violence.

“We are extremely concerned by Boko Haram’s senseless killing of innocent people, the targeting of worshippers, and the destruction of houses of worship,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George.  “This increase in violence has left more than 300 dead since the beginning of July and is a stark reminder that Boko Haram is a destabilizing force in Nigeria and the region.”

Presidents Buhari and Obama will be discussing ways to tackle Nigeria’s multiple security, corruption, and development challenges. “USCIRF welcomes the Administration’s calls for the Nigerian government to comprehensively address these challenges.  We urge that these discussions focus on improving civilian security from  Boko Haram’s attacks and the long-standing herder-farmer sectarian violence.  Such discussion should urge the Nigerian government to respect human rights during military and police responses and ensure justice for victims.  Addressing the issues of radicalization, northern socio-economic disparities, land conflicts, displacement, and reconciliation also are crucial to helping ensure security and ending the violence,” said George.

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