Nigerian violence raised as concern by US religious freedom commission


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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two recent outbreaks of violence that claimed nearly 1,000 lives in northern Nigeria show that the country's political leaders are unable to effectively resolve conflicts that transcend both socio-economic and religious issues, said a U.S. government commission.

In releasing its annual report April 29 in Washington, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited Nigeria as a country where violence is tolerated by the government, which it said allows Christian and Muslim perpetrators to continue their attacks unhindered.

"Until the Nigerian government recognizes there is a sectarian aspect to this conflict and violence, it will not be solved," said Leonard A. Leo, the commission chairman.

The commission recommended -- for the second year in a row -- that the United States list Africa's most populous nation as a country of particular concern, the most serious on a three-tier rating system.

Nigeria is one of the 13 countries recommended for such a rating. The Department of State has placed eight countries on the list but has excluded Nigeria from it.

By rating a country as one of particular concern, State Department officials would be permitted under the International Religious Freedom Act to undertake diplomatic actions or economic sanctions to encourage countries to improve religious freedom.