Yesterday, Monday 17th December 2018, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria made its case for religious freedom during a panel discussion between religious and civil society leaders on opportunities and challenges for Religious Freedom in Nigeria hosted by the United States Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington D.C.
A report on the 3 years of brutal persecution of the members of the Islamic Movement by the Nigerian government, prepared by the Free Zakzaky Campaign Committee, was presented at the discussion panel.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan American federal government entity that monitors, analyzes, and reports on threats to Religious Freedom.
The panel discussion was jointly hosted by USCIRF and International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), a body that is working to secure a future for all Nigerians, where rule-of-law, justice, religious freedom & constitutional rights are secured for all Nigerians.
The report by the Islamic Movement detailed the atrocities being perpetrated by the Nigerian government through the Nigerian army, especially the infamous Zaria massacre and the latest Abuja massacre, which took place only about six weeks ago.
The Movement’s report was presented by Dr. Oluwasayo Ajiboye, President of the Redeemed Christian Bible College and Seminary (RCCGNA Seminary), a very close friend of the Movement because Prof. Dahiru Yahya who was initially scheduled to take up the position of the Movement could not obtain Visa to attend.
USCIRF Vice Chair of USCIRF, Kristina Arriaga and Commissioner Nadine Maenza both gave remarks at the occasion. Rep Frank Wolf, a former Congressman made case for a special envoy for Religious Freedom for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region and the very productive discussion was moderated by Ferdaouis Bagga, a USCIRF Africa Policy Analyst.
President of International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), Stephen Enada says that he wants to emulate the Religious Freedom Ministerial that took place this past summer in October and “bring together different religious leaders from all across Nigeria.”
Major General Henry Idowu Omolaja Ayoola, who served in the Nigerian Army, speaks at USCIRF’s panel on Opportunities and Challenges to Religious Freedom in Nigeria about security challenges, ranging from Boko Haram to conflicts stemming from livestock ownership. Also speaking about Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Nigeria, Reverend Dr. Benjamin Argak Kwashi said, “The rule of law that holds democracy together will obviously be weakened by those who stand to gain from sapping its strength.”
Further follow up meetings are expected in the coming days and months that will generate accurate information and discussions on the opportunities and challenges to improve freedom of religion in Nigeria. It will also include recommendations for U.S. policy to assist the Nigerian government to prevent and respond to violations.
Interestingly, the panel discussion came on the same day that The New York Times published its Video evidence report that proved that Elite Nigerian Army had turned a peaceful religious procession into a massacre last October in Abuja.