US adds Nigeria to blacklist on religious freedom

The United States has placed Nigeria for the first time on a religious freedom blacklist, pressing an ally as Christian groups voice growing insecurity.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom, the rare inclusion of a fellow democracy in the US effort to shame nations into action.

“These annual designations show that when religious freedom is attacked, we will act,” Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, wrote on Twitter.

Nigeria maintains a delicate balance between Muslims and Christians, but church groups have expressed their rising concerns to the United States.

US law requires designations for nations that either engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”

The nations on the blacklist include Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which both have historic albeit complicated alliances with the United States, as well as China and Iran, arch-rivals for President Donald Trump’s administration.

The other nations on the list are Eritrea, Myanmar, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

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