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US removes Nigeria from religious freedom violators’ list

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The United States has removed Nigeria from the list of countries blacklisted for promoting religious extremism.

The former President Donald Trump’s administration had in 2020 placed Nigeria and six other countries on its special watch list for engaging or tolerating the severe violation of religious freedom.

However, in a fresh list released on Wednesday, Washington blacklisted Russia, China, and eight others “as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

In a statement issued signed by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, other countries blacklisted by President Joe Biden’s administration for violation of religious freedom are Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

The US also placed Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom in their territories.

Blinken said: “The United States will not waiver in its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country. In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs.

“This administration is committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violators and abusers of this human right.

“Each year the Secretary of State has the responsibility to identify governments and non-state actors, who, because of their religious freedom violations, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act.

READ ALSO: Nigeria to engage US on religious freedom violations —Foreign ministry

“I am designating Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.

“I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.” Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

“The challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched. They exist in every country. They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo. They require the international community’s urgent attention.”

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