How does religious freedom affect starving children in Nigeria?


By Randel Everett

The United Nations reports that an estimated 75,000 children could die from malnutrition within a year in Northern Nigeria unless food is made available. Members of our 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative staff have traveled to Nigeria twice this year, visiting camps where a million people displaced by Boko Haram and Fulani militants now live. We interviewed dozens of village leaders and victims of this violence, and we heard and saw for ourselves the reality behind the U.N. statistics.

What can we do to alleviate this suffering? One way is by giving money through reputable agencies that provide food for the hungry. Our organization has found some trusted partners that provide this resource.

As we gather with family and friends this week around our Thanksgiving tables, we should also pray for and share with our hungry neighbors in places like Nigeria.

While it is urgent that we send food to those who hunger, it may be even more important that we become advocates for policies and governments that prevent these situations from taking place.

Our Wilberforce team has witnessed the poverty and hunger of thousands living in refugee camps in Lebanon and IDP camps in Iraq and Nigeria. In each situation, these victims were displaced because of political and religious intolerance. I believe any unbiased study will prove that populations living in environments of religious freedom have greater security and economic stability.

Brian J. Grim, who left his job as a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center to become president of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, wrote that, “Religious hostilities and restrictions create climates that can drive away local and foreign investment, undermine sustainable development, and disrupt huge sectors of economies.”  

The battle for food security must be fought on many fronts. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we must find avenues for sharing our bounty with those who have little. We also must be advocates for international religious freedom to create safe, healthy environments where it is more conducive for families to feed themselves.

God has given the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative incredible opportunities, especially in the Middle East, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, to be a voice for the voiceless. The American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Center have all sponsored events to highlight our findings.

“The Edge of Extinction,” is our report on the genocide against minority religions in the Middle East and can be found on our website www.21wilberforce.org. “Fractured and Forgotten,” is our report on the atrocities of Northern Nigeria that we believe to be the most underreported humanitarian crisis in the world and is found on our website www.StandWithNigeria.org.  

Frank Wolf joined our staff as distinguished senior fellow after serving as a congressman from Virginia. “Congress,” he said, “will not act as long as the churches are silent. What will it take to wake up the churches in America?”

Thank you for joining with us in standing up for the three-fourths of the world’s population who live under religious oppression and persecution.

Action Items:

1. Go to www.StandWithNigeria.org/churches  and download resources to share with your family, church, or community groups to create an awareness of the current crisis in Northern Nigeria.

2. Read the article by Mark A. Kellner, "Religious freedom and economic growth linked in 2014,"Deseret News Faith, Dec. 26, 2014, to learn more about the link between religious freedom and economics.

Randel Everett is president and founder of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.