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NEW HAVEN, CONN. —The Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal benefit society, strongly supports the U.S. State Department’s decision to list Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” under the Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Announced on December 7, this action recognizes that Nigeria is engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Nigeria’s first-ever inclusion on the State Department list follows months of advocacy by the Knights of Columbus, which has long supported religious freedom worldwide.
“Nigeria’s Christians have suffered grievously at the hands of Boko Haram and other groups,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. “Tens of thousands have been murdered in recent decades simply because of their Christian faith. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo deserves credit for shining a light on these atrocities, which verge on genocide. The Christians of Nigeria, both Catholic and Protestant, deserve attention, recognition and relief now. Nigeria’s Christians should be able to live in peace and practice their faith without fear.”
In his annual report in August 2020, Supreme Knight Anderson announced a new initiative focused on religious persecution in Nigeria to facilitate “greater attention by American diplomacy and humanitarian aid.”
Among the civil society groups providing direct input to US State Department decision makers during the deliberation process for the CPC designation was the Institute for Ancient and Threatened Christianity (IATC), which was founded in early 2020 under a generous grant from the Knights of Columbus Charities. Included in the substantial body of evidence collected by IATC over the past year are several hundred video statements from the victims themselves. These statements were gathered from the full range of Christians of Northern Nigeria, both Protestant and Catholic. These statements have now created a substantive body of direct evidence regarding the atrocities committed against them and their faith.
There have been widespread reports of suffering by Nigeria’s Christians at the hands of Boko Haram and the Fulani. These groups routinely target Christian communities, murdering the elderly and adult men, committing atrocities against women, and kidnaping children.
The Knights of Columbus previously played a leading role in the United States government’s recognition of genocide against religious minorities by ISIS. In 2016, the Knights produced a groundbreaking 280-page report showing the scope and scale of ISIS’ crimes against Christians, Yazidis, and others. Based on that report, then-Secretary of State John Kerry officially declared that ISIS was guilty of genocide – a seminal moment that led to the mobilization of significant public and private resources to support persecuted religious minorities in Iraq.
About the Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is one of the world’s leading fraternal and service organizations with 2 million members in more than 16,000 parish-based councils. During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities. The organization also offers extensive life insurance services to members and their families, resulting in more than $114 billion of life insurance in force. Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors offers investment services to individuals and institutions in accord with Catholic social teaching. From helping children in need, to providing wheelchairs for the disabled, to helping stock food banks, to offering top-rated and affordable insurance products to its members, the Knights of Columbus has supported families and communities for more than 138 years.
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