Denial of religious freedom has fueled a “crisis of insecurity” and humanitarian tragedy in Nigeria, a scholar with the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative said.
About 75,000 Nigerians—mostly women and children—are likely to starve in the next 12 months, and Elijah Brown drew a “direct line” from religious discrimination to the famine.
“Right now, we are looking at a situation where the hunger is so real that 208 people could die every day, eight people every hour,” said Brown, executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. “One child every eight minutes in northeastern Nigeria could starve to death. God help us.”
Brown, former religion professor at East Texas Baptist University, participated in a March 21 panel discussion co-sponsored by his organization and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute.
Impact of Boko Haram
Boko Haram—a radical Islamist terrorist group—has destroyed 30 percent of the homes, more than 1,600 water sources and more than 200 health centers in one northeastern Nigerian state, he reported.
“Boko Haram’s violence—horrific and gut-wrenching—does not just emerge from nowhere,” Brown said. “It emerges from a foundation of discrimination that stretches across northern and central Nigeria.”
Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities results in limited educational and vocational opportunities, the inability to build houses of worship and denial of healthcare, community services and the right to vote, he noted.
“Children in particular have been impacted,” Brown added. As a direct result of violence by Boko Haram, 1,500 schools have been closed, denying 950,000 children the opportunity for education, he said.
“This foundation of religious discrimination, combined with a lack of economic development, lack of rule of law and elements of radicalization, has resulted in massive insecurity,” he said.
“Or to put it another way, a lack of religious freedom has helped contribute to the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in northeastern Nigeria. And let us be clear, it is a massive tragedy.”
Officially, Nigeria is home to 2.2 million internally displaced people, but the number more likely is between 5 million and 7 million—second only to Syria, Brown said.
“Denied religious freedom helped contribute to the violence of Boko Haram and is now resulting in famine,” he said. “And unfortunately, this is not the only insecurity crisis facing the country.”
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SOURCE: The Baptist Standard