Update (June 25): World Watch Monitor (WWM) reports that its new research coincides with claims made by Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who said last week that Boko Haram now has killed more Muslims than Christians in its ongoing campaign of violence.
According to WWM, "the situation in Nigeria is a classic example of what could be referred to as persecution eclipse," in which civil conflict and persecution overlap—and overshadow the latter.
"Civil unrest obscures religious persecution and can itself be a vehicle for persecution, the author claims, through its negative impact on the stability of society and the way it encourages Islamist groups to violently pursue their religious agenda," WWM states.
Update (May 14, 2013): CT has posted a dispatch from Lagos correspondent Sunday Oguntola on the Christian debate over amnesty, as well as today's declaration of emergency rule in three predominantly Muslim states.
Amid another surge of violence in Nigeria, the idea of an amnesty deal between the Nigerian government and militant Islamist group Boko Haram has the support of Christian president Goodluck Jonathan. But the proposal is firmly opposed by most Christian groups in the West African nation.
Following calls to offer amnesty to Boko Haram in exchange for the end of its terror campaign against Christians and other targeted groups (including the government, whose military has often been heavy-handed with militants), Jonathan has commissioned a 25-member presidential committee to examine how a pardon could be implemented.
The Vanguard newspaper reports that "some Nigerians believe amnesty would entice those among the terrorists who are tired to rejoin normal society as law abiding citizens. They buttress their argument by pointing to the calming effect the policy had in the Niger Delta." (Delta militants have threatened to target Boko Haram themselves.)
However, many church leaders and Christian groups oppose the amnesty deal, calling it "nothing but the legalisation of terrorism in the country." Others say such pardon would "send out a wrong signal of encouraging criminality."
Nearly 1,000 Nigerian Christians were killed in 2012, and more than 100 have died in the first few months of 2013, according to Jubilee Campaign. Executive director Ann Buwalda says this accounts for "almost 70 percent of Christians killed globally" last year, making Nigeria "the most lethal country for Christians by a huge margin."
In an essay for Morning Star News ahead of the release of a significant report on the bellwether city of Jos, Buwalda and human rights attorney Emmanuel Ogebe wrote:
With 3,000 casualties affecting citizens from a dozen countries in three years, Boko Haram has earned a dubious distinction as one of the top five lethal terrorist organizations in the world. In the last three years, however, the three most deadly incidents of anti-Christian persecution–with triple-digit casualties–in Nigeria were the March 7, 2010 massacre in Jos, Plateau state, the April 16, 2011 pogrom in the country's sharia (Islamic law) states and the Jan. 20, 2012 onslaught in Kano. Two out of these three incidents were not the handiwork of terrorists but of average northern Nigerian Muslims.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has wanted the State Department to designate Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" since 2009, but the country currently has not been recognized as such.
Nigeria ranked 13th on this year's World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where Christians face the most religious persecution. African nations have surged up the ranks of the worst persecutors in recent years.
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