The United States has removed Nigeria from its religious freedom blacklist, AFP reported on Wednesday.
In a statement by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the US blacklisted Russia, China, and eight other countries.
The communique listed the nations as “Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Countries on the blacklist, according to the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are “Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.”
They are categorised as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Blinken’s statement which was titled, ‘Religious Freedom Designations’, also disclosed that Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua have all been placed on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”
In a similar vein, the US also designated Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.
The US Secretary of State, in his statement, said, “The United States will not waiver in its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country.
“In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs.
“This Administration is committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violators and abusers of this human right”.
He added that “the challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched. They exist in every country. They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo. They require the international community’s urgent attention.
“We will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses.
“The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe”.
In 2020, the US placed Nigeria and six other countries on its special watch list of states that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom, however, the nation was exempted in the 2021 list.
He noted that the challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched.
“They exist in every country. They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo. They require the international community’s urgent attention,” Blinken said.
Wednesday’s development comes as a plus ahead of Blinken’s scheduled visit to Nigeria within the week.
In his remark in Kenya, Blinken warned that ‘democratic recession’ is growing around the world, stressing that vibrant democracies have become increasingly vulnerable to misinformation, corruption, political violence, and voter intimidation.
Buhari Receives US Secretary Of State Blinken
Blinken arrived at the presidential complex in a motorcade on Thursday and is expected to have a meeting with Buhari in his office.
The Nigerian leader and US top diplomat are also expected to discuss security issues facing Nigeria especially terrorism in the northern region.
Blinken will, after the meeting, head to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office to sign some agreements between the US and Nigeria and also hold a joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, before leaving the State House.
The US diplomat is on a three-nation tour of Africa and had first visited Kenya where he called for a ceasefire in Ethiopia’s troubled region.