Smith calls on top State Department official to meet with Nigerian bishop in wake of horrific church massacre
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), an internationally renowned leader in the fight for religious freedom, today petitioned a top U.S. State Department official to meet with Nigerian Bishop Jude Arogundade in the wake of last week’s horrific massacre at a Catholic church in the Diocese of Ondo that left 40 people dead and over 60 injured.
In a letter to Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Smith said, “In the aftermath of the horrific attack that took place on June 5 at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Owo, Ondo State, and in advance of your upcoming visit to Nigeria and, I ask that you make time in your schedule to meet with Bishop Jude Arogundade of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo.”
Smith noted the significant spread in violence against Christians and new threats in Nigeria that cannot be ignored.
“Previously, Ondo had not seen major militant activity, and the attack indicates the southward migration of terror towards Christian-majority regions as well as Nigeria’s oil-producing areas,” said Smith. “This is of great concern, especially given the outsized importance of Nigeria throughout all of West Africa.”
Smith’s letter comes on the heels of the State Department’s decision to omit Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern in its annual International Religious Freedom Report released earlier this month despite the widespread religious persecution plaguing the country.
Last year, Nigeria accounted for nearly 80 percent of Christian deaths worldwide with more than 4,650 believers killed, according to the religious freedom watchdog Open Doors International.
In a March report, Open Doors reported a Christian is killed for their faith every two hours, equating to nearly 13 Christians killed each day and 372 Christians killed each month.