The Young Christian Forum of Nigeria has strongly frowned at the classification of Nigeria as a religious intolerant county by the United States of America.
Recall that the United States had blacklisted Nigeria for “engaging (in) systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the measure via Twitter on Monday, saying his country will continue to act when “religious freedom is attacked”.
However, CFN insisted that Nigeria is not a religious intolerant country as asserted by the US under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
This is coming after the Federal Government earlier denounced the listing of Nigeria by the United States as one of the countries known for “systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.”
The federal government described Nigeria as a nation that “jealously protects religious freedom as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and takes seriously any infringements in this regard.”
Similarly, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said there was religious freedom in Nigeria, but admitted that Christians, especially in the North, were being persecuted.
Reacting to the development during a press conference on Friday, CFN through its President, Pastor Prince Gideon, called on the United States, to remove Nigeria from the list of countries it has blacklisted over religious intolerance.
The group said there is no record of religious intolerance in the country as averred by the US.
Full text of his speech below.
The Young Christian Forum as the umbrella body of young Christians in Nigeria is taken aback by the position of the United States of America in this regard which in our considered opinion is lacking in every form of objectivity. We are consequently amazed at how such classification could be made without recourse to the religious plurality of Nigeria.
It is our considered opinion that the United States of America does not have any moral authority to label Nigeria as a religious intolerant country for the fact that there hasn’t been any instance where adherents of the various religious faiths in Nigeria have been hindered or prevented from practicing or engaging in their religious beliefs.
The Young Christian Forum sees this as an affront to our sensibilities as a people and as a country because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria explicitly guarantees all citizens of Nigeria the right to religious freedom and this has been the norm from time immemorial.
The Young Christian Forum is not aware of any of such restrictions in Nigeria. The vibrant Nigerian press has not reported that with regards to restrictions on religious freedom or instances of religious favoritism by all tiers of government in Nigeria.
It remains a figment of the United States of America that there are religious restrictions in Nigeria. If this is not the case, we wonder how the United States of America arrived at such an illogical conclusion.
The attendant designation of Nigeria as a country of concern in religious freedom is very uncharitable and a display of crass ignorance by the American authorities in what can be termed a plot to spark mutual suspicion amongst the adherents of the various religious groupings in the country.
The United States of America must come to terms with the fact that designating a sovereign country like Nigeria as religiously intolerant is an act of sabotage that does not spell well for the psychological psyche of Nigerians.
The Young Christian Forum as a critical stakeholder in Nigeria is most embarrassed by the action of the United States of America because it is evident that there is more than meets the eyes.
It is also a dishonorable action for the American authorities to attempt to pitch the various religions against each other in Nigeria by making wild and unsubstantiated allegations that can’t be back by any fact.
The Young Christian Forum wishes to use this medium to enlighten the American authorities that their line of thought is defective and not a reflection of the realities on the ground in Nigeria with regards to the rights of Nigerian citizens to practice any religion of their choice.
This is on the heels that in Nigeria, there hasn’t been any instance where the government has placed restrictions on religious expressions. As a fact, no Christian or Muslim has been prosecuted for practicing their faiths. It is also on record that the government has shut no religious place of worship under any guise.
The Young Christian Forum consists of members from various interdenominational organizations, and to the best of our knowledge, there has not been any curricular restricting the rights of our members or citizens to worship or association. The American authorities must, as a matter of morality desists from making unguarded statements that are capable of igniting a sectarian conflict in Nigeria such as this.
We consequently demand that an unreserved apology be tendered to Nigeria and Nigerians from the United States of America because their classification of Nigeria as a country with egregious religious violations is untoward and smacks of a mockery of the sincerity of the United States of America on issues of global concern in all ramifications.
The Young Christian Forum is calling on all Nigerians to avoid any terrorist tagging by any country. We are a country of noblemen and women with a high level of religious tolerance. As such, we refuse to be painted in a bad light.
We are using this medium to call on the United States of America to begin the process of removing Nigeria from the list of countries it has designated as a country of concern for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations. Nigeria and Nigerians deserve her respectful position amongst the comity of nations as one of the countries with impeccable records in religious tolerance.
The Young Christian Forum of Nigeria is calling on the international community as well as our development partners to disregard the insinuations by the United States of America, which by and large is more political than reality.