Following a massacre at a Catholic church in Nigeria, a senior US State Department official visited a local bishop, according to Representative Chris Smith’s office.
After Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, became concerned about the safety of Christians in Nigeria, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited Bishop Jude Arogundade.
“The meeting was held at the request of Congressman Smith, and we understand the opportunity to raise concerns was taken,” Michael Finan, Smith’s press secretary, told CNA.
Smith published a statement June 15 regarding a letter he sent, urging Nuland to meet Arogundade during his trip to that country.
“Following the horrific attack that took place on June 5 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Ondo State, and ahead of your next visit to Nigeria,” Smith wrote, “I asks you to take time out of your schedule to meet with Bishop Arogundade of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo.
The statement follows the massacrewhere 40 people were confirmed dead and more than 60 injured.
Smith wrote that “the attack indicates the southward migration of terror to Christian majority areas as well as oil producing areas of Nigeria”.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 216 million people, is of “outsized importance” to West Africa, according to Smith, who also said the growing violence against Christians can no longer be overlooked.
The State Department had overlooked Nigeria as a country of particular concern in its annual report on international religious freedom before the massacre in the Diocese of Ondo.
Smith cited troubling data from Open Doors USA, a network that helps persecuted Christians, in the press release. According to religious freedom look, a Christian is killed every two hours in Nigeria for practicing his faith. This equates to approximately 13 Christians killed per day, or 372 each month.
According to Open Doors, Nigeria recorded nearly 80% of Christian deaths worldwide last year.
Smith’s office will continue to work with Arogundade, according to Finan.