LAGOS and WASHINGTON: A top Nigerian Christian leader has called on the United States to step up pressure against the Islamic militant Boko Haram group in the country, responsible for hundreds of deaths of Christians in the country.
The latest killing left at least 58 Christians dead in central Nigeria.
Despite the continued violent attacks and killings, the US State Department has refused to place the group on its terrorist list, which would force the US to take action.
Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said that the US move on June 21 was “the equivalent of designating (Osama) bin Laden a terrorist but failing to designate Al-Qaeda a terrorist organization.”
Oritsejafor said that the American’s reluctance to brand Boko Haram as “terrorists” had given the group more confidence and has seen them increase their attacks.
Most estimates of the violence that began in mid-2009 by the militant group puts the number of killed at more than 1,000.
“By refusing to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, the United States is sending a very clear message, not just to the federal government of Nigeria, but to the world that the murder of innocent Christians and Muslims who reject Islamism — and I make a clear distinction here between Islam and Islamism — are acceptable losses,” Oritsejafor said.
“It is hypocritical for the United States and the international community to say that they believe in freedom and equality when their actions do not support those who are being persecuted,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in what was described by media as a rare angry speech in front of Congress.
Oritsejafor said Boko Haram sought “an end to Western influence and a removal of the Christian presence in Nigeria,” telling the US lawmakers: “My people are dying every day.”
As he was speaking in the US, a Boko Haram spokesman told Bikyamasr.com that the group “would continue” their attacks on Christians “until they leave Islamic lands.”