For Immediate Release
December 13, 2022
Hamilton Strategies, [email protected],
Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105,
or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102
U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Brings Nigerian President Buhari to Washington, D.C. as Reuters Investigations Reveal Likely Crimes Against Humanity
Leah Foundation President Dr. Gloria Puldu Asks, ‘Why is Brutal Buhari Being Treated Like a Favored Guest of the United States?’
WASHINGTON — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will face strong opposition from human rights activists in response to recently released investigative reports from Reuters alleging the Nigerian military has engaged in secret forced-abortion and child-killing campaigns for years as he joins leaders from 50 African nations in Washington, D.C. today for the start of the US-African Leaders Summit. The Summit is hosted by the Biden Administration at the Walter E. Washington Conventions Center from December 13-15. In addition, the U.S. Institute of Peace will host “A Conversation with Buhari” on Friday, December 16, from 2:45-4:00 pm ET.
Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), an international coalition designed to raise awareness of the realities millions of Christians around the world are facing, and guest, Dr. Gloria Puldu, president of the Leah Foundation are also in Washington, D.C. this week for media interventions and meetings (see here, here, here, and here) to further raise awareness of the extensive religious-based violence happening in Nigeria, and to counter false government-lobbyist narratives that suppress the truth and placate the West into inaction. STPC is encouraging the public to ask their members of Congress to investigate U.S. military and humanitarian relief provided to Nigeria.
“It is very sad that despite all the previous evidence and these new accusations that President Buhari has been invited to join other African leaders on the world stage with President Biden,” said Puldu. “Why is brutal Buhari being treated like a favored guest of the United States? The leadership Buhari has provided should not be elevated but rather prosecuted.”
Research from the 2022 World Watch List reveals that in 2021, more Christians were murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country. Last year, Nigeria accounted for nearly 80% of Christian deaths worldwide with more than 4,650 verified to have been killed because they were Christian. The death toll once again makes Nigeria the world’s most violent place for Christians for the second consecutive year. In fact, every two hours, a Christian is killed there for believing in Jesus.
“We can document that 4,650 Nigerian Christians were killed during the previous reporting period for the 2022 World Watch List,” said Open Doors USA CEO David Curry. “Those are just those we know about and can report. They were tracked, targeted, raped and killed… because they were Christians.”
In addition, according to an investigatory report published by Reuters on December 7, 2022, the Nigerian military has conducted at least 10,000 secret and often forced abortions on women and girls rescued from Boko Haram’s captivity and believed to have been impregnated by its jihadists. Headlined “The Abortion Assault: Nigerian military ran secret mass abortion programme in war against Boko Haram,” Reuters found after interviewing 33 victims that the Nigerian Army has run a secret, systematic, and illegal abortion program in the country’s northeast since at least 2013.
That report has been followed by another Reuters investigation released on December 12, 2022, entitled “Smothered, poisoned and shot: Nigerian Army massacred children in its war against Islamist insurgents, witnesses say.” The wire service drew on 40 sources, including parents, other civilians and soldiers who said they participated in dozens of military operations in which children were intentionally slaughtered. Witnesses give accounts of mass graves pre-dug where soldiers first killed the men, then the women, and then the children and rolled them into the graves and covering their bodies with dirt. Another woman recounts how her 4-month-old twins were smothered to death by a soldier as she was being rescued from captivity.
“I don’t see them as children, I see them as Boko Haram,” said one soldier, who told Reuters his best friend was shot dead by insurgents. The soldier said he had killed children himself. “If I get my hands on them, I won’t shoot them, I will slit their throat… I enjoy it.”
The U.N. General Secretary has called for investigations of the alleged forced-abortion campaign and the U.S. State Department is “deeply troubled” by reports of targeted child killings by the Nigerian military.
On 19 February 2018, 14-year-old Leah Sharibu was among 110 students kidnapped from their school in Yobe State, Nigeria, by the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). Tragically, five died in captivity. The others were released within a month, but Leah was kept because she refused to deny her faith in Jesus. Fellow captives said when the terrorists demanded to know who was a Christian, Leah’s arm shot up — even as her classmates tried to restrain her.
Leah turns 19 in May and has given birth to two children while in captivity, according to reports from former captives with knowledge of her whereabouts. Despite government assurances that she will be rescued, her family’s pleas for negotiations are routinely ignored.
Leah is the internationally known face of thousands, like herself, held captive in terrorist hideouts.
Incessant Religious-based Violence
Incessant and extreme religious-based violence and terrorism in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa’s Sahel continue unabated despite longstanding anti-terrorism campaigns funded by Western governments.
Christians are the most vulnerable and persecuted and the Nigerian government is unable, or unwilling, to halt this violence and protect its citizens. At least 109 formerly Christian communities and farms have been attacked and are now occupied with impunity in Southern Kaduna state according to a recent report from the Southern Kaduna People’s Union. The same phenomenon of taking over, occupying, and renaming communities is happening in many northern states and nothing has been done to reclaim these villages and farms. In Nigeria alone, more than 3.5 million people have already been displaced — the vast majority are Christians and overwhelmingly Catholic who are ignored and unaided by the federal government.
Meanwhile, lobbyists for the Nigerian government continue to parrot the false claim that the violence is related to clashes between herdsmen (traditionally Fulani Muslims) and subsistence farmers (predominantly Christians) and related to scarce resources. Evidence of religious-based targeting of communities, individuals, and churches is significant and belies the official narrative.
“Christians are not initiating coordinated attacks on Muslims in Nigeria,” said Laugesen. “Defensive actions by victims are not equivalent to the routine jihadist attacks being waged on Christian villages which have lived in harmony with the Fulani and other Muslim tribes for generations. Unfortunately, too many farms are left fallow as it is too dangerous to work the land, leading to concerns of famine.”
In addition to killings, lucrative kidnapping-for-ransom cases have increased dramatically in the past three years. Christian women and young girls are the primary target, particularly in northern Nigeria but also increasingly in the south. This “warfare on women” is intended to strike fear in the community and cause them to abandon their properties.
Christian communities are terrorized by Muslim Fulani militants, Boko Haram, the Islamic State in the Western Africa Province (ISWAP), and Ansaru (al-Qaeda) as well as armed ‘bandits’ — and these groups are increasingly working together. Unfortunate women and girls taken captive and numbering in the thousands are raped, forcibly converted, forced into sexual slavery, and sometimes killed even after ransoms have been paid. Entire communities have gone bankrupt trying to save their citizens.
Christian men and boys are also targeted by such groups. Husbands, fathers and sons are killed with the aim of destroying livelihoods and depopulating Christian communities. Young boys are at risk of being compelled to fight as child soldiers, while church leaders and church members are vulnerable to abduction for ransom. High unemployment and unsafe schools increase opportunities for radicalization.
While the kidnapping of Chibok girls in 2014 and Dapchi students in 2018 caught the world’s attention for a time, attacks on school facilities continue. Nine of the Chibok girls were recovered in 2022, having at times suddenly appeared out of the darkness. Nonetheless, 98 Chibok girls are still missing eight years later. Understandably, at least 20 million students refuse to go to school and Nigeria has among the highest number of children out of school according to UNESCO.
On May 12, a Christian woman named Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a student in northern Nigeria, was beaten to death and her body burned by a mob on campus after attempting to redirect a study chat group where other students had been evangelizing their Muslim faith. “Holy ghost fire, nothing would happen to me, is it by force you guys would always be sending these religious stuff in the group, the group wasn’t created for that, but rather as a notice for when there’s a test, assignment, exams etc. not these nonsense religious posts,” said Deborah. At least 50 armed Nigerian security officers stood by and did nothing to disperse the mob or otherwise prevent Deborah’s murder.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 5, gunmen massacred dozens as they worshipped at St. Xavier Catholic Church in the deeply Christian Ondo state in southwest Nigeria. For years Catholic priests, seminarians, laity and Protestant ministers and congregants have been kidnapped and killed with impunity with shockingly few reported arrests and scarcely any prosecutions of the perpetrators.
“Meanwhile,” said Laugesen, “independent frontline journalists like Stephen Kefas and Luka Biniyat have been harassed with trumped-up criminal charges for reporting on conditions in violated communities. These state actions threaten the accuracy of objective data collection and reporting, and chill free speech and stifle the press.”
On Wednesday, December 14, from 1:00-2:30 pm ET, Puldu will participate as a panelist in a side-event to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, “Women and IRF: Why their Concerns are Overlooked in Africa,” being hosted by the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, a multifaith coalition working together to advance freedom of religion or belief worldwide. To attend virtually, RSVP here. To attend in person, RSVP here.
The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus.
With so much of the world’s Christian population being imprisoned and/or harassed for their beliefs, such as Christians in Nigeria, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution — Soviet Jews — by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.
To interview representatives of the Save the Persecuted Christians, contact [email protected], Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.