IIRF in support of Religious Liberty Partnership Statement on Nigeria
Entitled the Abuja Statement on the Crises in Central Nigeria, the document states that though “there has been a long history of disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities across the Sahel,” the current attacks in Nigeria, “can no longer be attributed to desertification or to a struggle for resources.” The attacks “now occur with such frequency, organisation and asymmetry that references to ‘farmer-herder clashes’ no longer suffice.”
The Statement calls on the Nigerian government “to ensure that all of Nigeria’s religious communities enjoy religious freedom, including the right to manifest and propagate their beliefs as enshrined in Article 38.1 of the Nigerian Constitution” and to “urgently facilitate the release of Leah Sharibu, Alice Ngaddah and the remaining Chibok Girls.”
“This is a clear statement of the truly dire situation facing Christians in the North and Middle Belt of Nigeria,” said Mervyn Thomas, Chairman of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) and CEO of CSW, UK. “By holding our annual RLP consultation in Abuja this year, Christians from around the world were able to gain a clear understanding of the problems and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Christian family in Nigeria.”
The Deputy-director of the Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the World Evangelical Alliance charged with the Sub-Sahara African countries, Dr. Fernando Da Silva, Johannesburg, South Africa, remarked: “For the sake of my conscience, I cannot keep quiet while thousands of people are being killed and persecuted for their faith in Christ. Therefore, I stand on behalf of them anywhere in Africa and beyond. I also remember and pray for all relatives affected by these atrocious and inhuman actions.” Da Silva is also the Director of the IIRF Observatory for the Community of Portuguese Language Countries and Regions.
Another affiliate of the IIRF, Drs. Werner Nel, Pretoria, South Africa, chaired a discussion of the RLP Research Task Group in Abuja on definitions of persecution and persecution scales using various terminology. He had conducted a survey among the RLP member organisations on their views, in order to avoid an inflated use of the term persecution. The research was conducted together with the chair of the task group, the IIRF Co-Director, Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer, based in Cape Town/South Africa and Giessen/Germany, who did not attend due to his teaching obligations at Freie Theologische Hochschule in Giessen.
Other IIRF members in attendance were Prof. Dr. Janet Epp-Buckingham, Ottawa, Canada, who is the current editor of the International Journal for Religious Freedom and a member of the IIRF Academic Council, as well as Rev. Godfrey Yogarajah, chairman of the IIRF Board (also Deputy Secretary General, World Evangelical Alliance and Executive Director, WEA Religious Liberty Commission), and Advocate Yamini Ravindran of the Colombo/Sri Lanka office of IIRF.