The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has questioned the United States for delisting Nigeria from the list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ on the issue of freedom of religion.
The association in a statement on Sunday said it does not have the data or statistics used by the US government in arriving at the decision.
“The US government did not contact us when they were listing Nigeria among the countries of ‘Particular Concern’ on religious freedom, neither did they seek our opinion before removing Nigeria from the list,” a statement by the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle, said.
“If they had done, we would have been able to compare the statistics then and now on the issue of freedom of religion in Nigeria. Whatever may be the data they used, our prayer is that Nigeria would be a country where no religious group is discriminated against or persecuted and that our government would see to it that all religiously biased policies are discontinued”.
According to CAN, Christians have faced and are still facing persecution from ISWAP and the Boko Haram Islamic Group till today.
“We have lost many people and places of worship to their assault, especially in the Northcentral part of the country and the Northeast.
“Though the madness has grown now and those who are not Christians are being attacked, killed and kidnapped, this is because these criminal acts have become a lucrative business and it is whoever you can kidnap for money! If the government had responded appropriately when this criminal madness began and subdued these evil groups immediately, we wouldn’t be where we are now!
“We have been shouting at the top of our voice in Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), almost in vain, that government policies should be religiously neutral enough so that no religious group would be seen as being favoured or discriminated against.
“For example, for almost a year ago now, some of our churches are finding it difficult with the Ministry of Interior to get new marriage certificate booklet after they had exhausted the ones they were using. Some had applied for new supply as far back as January this year without any response from Ministry of Interior till now.
“This means that such churches licensed to conduct weddings were denied the right to do so for no cogent reason from the government! It is not only in Nigeria that churches are allowed to conduct weddings once they were licensed to do so. Why are the churches being denied the right to do so now in Nigeria? If there is nothing to hide by the government and it is not a subtle religious discrimination, why didn’t the ministry in a written form or verbally explain to the churches that needed new marriage certificate booklet why the supply is delayed?
“We are seizing this opportunity to appeal to the Ministry of Interior to put its acts together and allow the licensed churches to collect the marriage certificate booklets from the local government registries nearest to them without further delay and cost,” the statement read in part.
CAN, therefore, called on “all right-thinking people” to continue to ask the US government to let the world know what has changed on the issue of religious freedom and the persecution that Christians face because according to them, the factors that put Nigeria on the CPC list for the first time in 2020 are still there.