Some Christian youths have rejected the United States’ designation of Nigeria as one of the religious intolerant countries in the world.
The group, under the auspices of Young Christian Forum of Nigeria (YCFN) said the U.S.’ assessment lacks objectivity in every form and was made without recourse to the religious plurality of Nigeria.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday in Abuja, President, Pastor Prince Gideon, said the U.S.lacks “moral authority to label Nigeria as a religious intolerant country for the fact that there hasn’t been any instance where adherents of the various religious faiths in Nigeria have been hindered or prevented from practising or engaging in their religious beliefs”.
According to the YCfN, there hasn’t been any instance where the government has placed restrictions on religious expressions, adding that no Christian or Muslim has been prosecuted for practising their faiths.
The group also reminded the U.S. that the Nigerian government has never shut a religious place of worship under any guise.
The group, therefore, demanded an unreserved apology to be tendered to Nigeria and Nigerians from the United States of America.
It, however, advised the U.S. to begin the process of removing Nigeria from its blacklist of countries of concern for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violation.
“The Young Christian Forum as the umbrella body of young Christians in Nigeria is taken aback by the position of the United States of America in this regard which in our considered opinion is lacking in every form of objectivity. We are consequently amazed at how such classification could be made without recourse to the religious plurality of Nigeria.
“It is our considered opinion that the United States of America does not have any moral authority to label Nigeria as a religious intolerant country for the fact that there hasn’t been any instance where adherents of the various religious faiths in Nigeria have been hindered or prevented from practising or engaging in their religious beliefs.
“The Young Christian Forum sees this as an affront to our sensibilities as a people and as a country because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria explicitly guarantees all citizens of Nigeria the right to religious freedom and this has been the norm from time immemorial.
“The Young Christian Forum is not aware of such restrictions in Nigeria. The vibrant Nigerian press has not reported that with regard to restrictions on religious freedom or instances of religious favouritism by all tiers of government in Nigeria.
“It remains a figment of the United States of America that there are religious restrictions in Nigeria. If this is not the case, we wonder how the United States of America arrived at such an illogical conclusion.
“The attendant designation of Nigeria as a country of concern for religious freedom is very uncharitable and a display of crass ignorance by the American authorities in what can be termed a plot to spark mutual suspicion amongst the adherents of the various religious groupings in the country,” the Youths noted, adding that
The United States of America must come to terms with the fact that designating a sovereign country like Nigeria as religiously intolerant is an act of sabotage that does not spell well for the psychological psyche of Nigerians.
The Young Christian Forum as a critical stakeholder in Nigeria is most embarrassed by the action of the United States of America because it is evident that there is more than meets the eyes.
It is also a dishonourable action for the American authorities to attempt to pitch the various religions against each other in Nigeria by making wild and unsubstantiated allegations that can’t be back by any fact.
The Young Christian Forum wishes to use this medium to enlighten the American authorities that their line of thought is defective and not a reflection of the realities on the ground in Nigeria with regards to the rights of Nigerian citizens to practice any religion of their choice.
This is on the heels that in Nigeria, there hasn’t been any instance where the government has placed restrictions on religious expressions. As a fact, no Christian or Muslim has been prosecuted for practising their faiths. It is also on record that the government has shut no religious place of worship under any guise.
The Young Christian Forum consists of members from various interdenominational organizations, and to the best of our knowledge, there has not been any curricular restricting the rights of our members or citizens to worship or association. The American authorities must, as a matter of morality desists from making unguarded statements that are capable of igniting a sectarian conflict in Nigeria such as this.
We consequently demand that an unreserved apology be tendered to Nigeria and Nigerians from the United States of America because their classification of Nigeria as a country with egregious religious violations is untoward and smacks of a mockery of the sincerity of the United States of America on issues of global concern in all ramifications.
The Young Christian Forum is calling on all Nigerians to avoid any terrorist tagging by any country. We are a country of noblemen and women with a high level of religious tolerance. As such, we refuse to be painted in a bad light.
We are using this medium to call on the United States of America to begin the process of removing Nigeria from the list of countries it has designated as a country of concern for engaging systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations. Nigeria and Nigerians deserve her respectful position amongst the comity of nations as one of the countries with impeccable records in religious tolerance.
The Young Christian Forum of Nigeria is calling on the international community as well as our development partners to disregard the insinuations by the United States of America, which by and large is more political than reality.
I thank you all for your time, and God bless abundantly.
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