USA – Brownback points to Nigeria, China and global spread of religious persecution

CNA | Christine Rousselle | February 28, 2020

U.S. Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback has warned that religious persecution is spreading worldwide, and highlighted the examples of anti-Christian violence in Nigeria and a growing religious surveillance state in China.

Speaking to CNA on Thursday, Feb. 27, Ambassador Brownback highlighted the ongoing violence in Nigeria, where local Christians have been the victims of violent attacks and abductions.

Brownback said he is concerned the situation in Nigeria will spread to nearby countries if nothing is done to crack down on religious persecution. 

“There’s a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria, and we’re afraid it is going to spread a great deal in that region,” he told CNA. “It is one that’s really popped up on my radar screens — in the last couple of years, but particularly this past year.” 

In January, a Nigerian seminarian was abducted and murdered by militants, and several priests and seminarians have been abducted in the country. Brownback expressed frustration that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to protect religious groups. 

“I think we’ve got to prod the [Nigerian President Muhammadu] Buhari government more. They can do more,” he said. “They’re not bringing these people to justice that are killing religious adherents. They don’t seem to have the sense of urgency to act.” 

While he acknowledged that there had been “some pretty good meetings recently,” he predicted that religious persecution in Nigeria will continue to worsen unless the government takes concerted action. 

“We really think that they’ve got to act more,” he said, calling for dialogue between Muslims and Christians in the country, “really try to get them working together instead of killing each other.” 

“We need to engage the religious leaders more, to see if we can really start to tamp that down,” he said. 

Later in the day, Brownback spoke during a panel event titled “Without Religious Freedom, What’s Left?”  The event took place at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. 

“The problem is that [religious persecution] still grows and grows,” said Brownback during the event. “Eighty percent of the world’s population is in a country that has religious persecution,” he said. 

“It’s the most deadly time in the history of Christendom for you to be a Christian. There’s more Christian persecution than any time in the history of mankind.”

“The future of oppression isn’t going to look like what it looks like now,” said Brownback, highlighting the crackdown on religious practice in China.