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Nigeria leads the world in extreme poverty

International | The African nation overtakes India as the problem shifts from Asia to Africa
by Charissa Koh
Posted 7/31/18, 04:54 pm

Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty, according to a report released last month by the Brookings Institution. The study found 87 million people in the African nation living in such conditions, a number growing by six people per minute, compared to a steadily decreasing 73 million people in India.

Despite being one of Africa’s largest oil producers, Nigeria has a population growing faster than its economy, and is slowly exiting a 2016 recession.

After the report’s release, Nigerian officials argued that the Brookings data was collected too soon after the downturn and did not reflect the true state of the country.

“There is absolutely no question that there is an urgency to create employment in Nigeria,” Okechukwu Enelamah, Nigeria’s minister of industry, trade, and investments, told journalists last month, but he added that infrastructure projects now in process would mean the rate of poverty would soon decrease.

The Brookings report was not as optimistic, projecting an increase in extreme poverty in the country through at least 2022.

A 2018 report by the African Development Bank Group noted Nigeria was showing signs of recovery from the recession, but concluded, “Poverty is unacceptably high; nearly 80 percent of Nigeria’s 190 million people live on less than $2 a day.”

Nigeria is also falling behind on meeting the UN’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals for eliminating world poverty. The World Poverty Clock tracks the goals and paints a stark picture: While some countries are drastically reducing extreme poverty, and others are making slower progress than planned, Nigeria’s rate of poverty is increasing daily.

The country’s poverty rate is part of a larger story about global extreme poverty shifting slowly from Asia to Africa, according to Brookings.

“Already, Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor,” read the report. “If current trends persist, they will account for nine-tenths by 2030. Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world—where the number of extreme poor is rising—are in Africa.”

Facebook/Save Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani Facebook/Save Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (left) with his wife and two sons

Four Christians imprisoned in Iran

Authorities in Iran arrested four Christians last week for their involvement with home churches and confined them to the country’s notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

In the case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, plainclothes police came to his home in Rasht on June 22 and tasered him and his son Danial, World Watch Monitor reported.

“The officers asked for Youcef,” Kiaa Aalipour of the London-based advocacy organization Article 18 told World Watch Monitor. “When Danial wanted to call his father the officers attacked him with an electroshock weapon and incapacitated Danial. When Pastor Youcef came, they also attacked him with an electroshock weapon. Then Pastor Youcef was beaten up by the forces, despite the fact that neither he, nor his son, had offered any resistance.”

Nadarkhani was placed in a “quarantine ward” of the prison used for punishment, according to Middle East Concern. Christian Solidarity Worldwide condemned the “excessive force” and “unwarranted violence aimed at his son.”

Authorities took three other Christians—Saheb Fadaie, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, and Mohammad Reza Omidi—to prison without violence last Tuesday and Wednesday.

After losing prior appeals, all four converts to Christianity were awaiting a typical summons to begin prison terms for “acting against national security,” “promoting Zionist Christianity,” and running “house churches.” Arrested in 2016, a court convicted the four in July 2017 and sentenced them to more than the maximum sentence for national security crimes. The court also sentenced Nadarkhani and Omidi to two years internal exile in Southern Iran.

Nadarkhani is one of the most well-known Iranian Christians because of a prior conviction for “apostasy.” He served three years on death row before a campaign by international advocacy groups led to his acquittal and release in 2012.

Religious freedom in Iran continued deteriorating in 2017, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s recent report. In particular, the organization noted harsher sentences against Christians.

Open Doors ranks Iran the 10th most difficult country in the world for Christians and says Muslims who convert to Christianity suffer the worst persecution. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press/Photo by Chris Brummitt Associated Press/Photo by Chris Brummitt A woman in a church in Pleiki, Vietnam

Vietnamese pastor sentenced to 16 years

A court in the Vietnamese province of Quang Ngai on July 12 convicted Lutheran Pastor Dinh Diem, sentencing him to 16 years in prison for “attempts to overthrow the people’s government,” UCA News reported.

Officials arrested Diem in January, the same month the Vietnamese government listed a U.S.-based group loyal to the former government of South Vietnam as a “terrorist” group, according to Reuters. The court convicted Diem for links to that group, the Provisional Government of Vietnam, and for sharing articles and photographs critical of the Communist Party.

The Interfaith Council of Vietnam proclaimed Diem’s innocence in a July 21 statement: “We strongly condemn the unfair and heavy sentence imposed on Pastor Diem because he has not done anything illegal.” Council members include Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, and members of indigenous religions.

The council also criticized police who attacked a dignitary of the Cao Dai indigenous religion in June. They beat Hua Phi unconscious, cut off his beard, and prevented his hospitalization, according to UCA News.

Vietnam is ranked the 18th most difficult country in the world for Christians by Open Doors.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report said Vietnam’s government “amplified human rights abuses” in 2017, including crackdowns on freedom of religion, expression, and association. —J.A.S.

The death of democracy in Cambodia

The ruling party of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen congratulated itself Monday on its election victory, while the opposition party, unable to contest the polls, said the election marked the death of democracy in the Southeast Asian country. A spokesman for Hun’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) called the vote a “brilliant victory.” The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) called the election a “sham,” in a statement issued by some of its former leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Critics of Hun and the CPP charge that the former Khmer Rouge officer and his cronies have ruled Cambodia since a 1997 coup, repeatedly promising reforms to the international community in exchange for aid but then refusing to deliver. The CNRP predicted foreign governments would punish the regime with crippling economic sanctions. The United States said it regretted the “flawed elections” and would consider expanding visa restrictions.

“I think we’re looking at a possible domino effect of what is happening in Cambodia across [Southeast Asia] as a whole if this is not addressed,” said former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman. —Les Sillars

Charissa Koh

Charissa is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and a reporter for WORLD.

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