Sunday, March 14, 2010

What happened to Religious Freedom in Nigeria?

Do you worship or practice your religion freely? If you do, count yourself lucky because in some parts of the world, religious freedom is a luxury many can't afford.

Roughly defined, religious freedom is the freedom of a person or community to believe in, practice and promote the religion of their choice without interference or harassment. It is a fundamental human right and ranks up there with other basic rights and liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly; enshrined in many human rights documents, including the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Article 18 of the UDHR states:
"Everyone has the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, or freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
You'd agree that it took decades of religious wars, bloodshed and persecutions for states to realise that one of the major roles of modern governments is to protect the religious choice of people within its borders. Unfortunately, some states, including Nigeria are yet to fulfil this moral and legal obligation. The question is - what happened to religious freedom Nigeria?

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with a population of more than 150 million. The country is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians - with the former predominantly in the north and the latter in the south.

Outburst of violence between Muslims and Christians is not uncommon and the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau State happens to be a notorious battleground, recording bloodshed from religious violence since 2001. In September 2001, sectarian violence claimed more than 1,000 lives; in May 2004, more than 700 died; in 2005, up to 500 deaths were recorded; in November 2008, at least 700 people were killed in Muslim-Christian riots; in January 2010, violence between Muslims and Christians broke out in the same city. This time, at least 70 people were killed and about 600 injured. Most recently - March 7, 2010, at least 200 Christian villagers in Plateau State were brutally killed, according to Human Rights Watch.

How does this concern you? Well, I asked myself the same question before I watched the following videos. Viewer discretion is advised!
What are your thoughts? Do you think the government has done enough to guarantee religious freedom in Nigeria? It is worth mentioning that some of the atrocities are allegedly committed by government forces, but as you'd expect, the government refuses to shoulder responsibility. Below is Part 2 of the video:
I have not independently verified the allegations, but one thing is indisputable - for many people in Nigeria, religious freedom is an illusive concept.

Nigeria has a moral obligation to comply with the principles of the UDHR. Moreover, the government of Nigeria is party to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and has a legal obligation to guarantee religious freedom to all individuals within its territory and to provide effective remedy to victims of violations of the rights recognized by the Covenant.
Do you think Nigeria is doing enough to curb sectarian violence? Is the government culpable? Above all, where is the international community?

Is this not massacre?

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