What does persecution look like in Niger?
Last year’s military coup has added to the growing hostility felt by many Christians across Niger.
In July 2023, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of the presidential guard’s unit, declared himself Niger’s new leader, prompting concerns that this will open the country up to further attacks from Islamic extremists. Such fears are heightened because Islamic militants have already been growing in influence in Niger, leading to a rise in attacks on Christian properties, such as churches, schools and healthcare centers. In areas under militant control, church services and other events are carried out under the shadow of potential violence or physical attack. The instability in the Sahel region only adds to this vulnerability.
Those who leave Islam to follow Jesus face the additional challenge of pressure from their own families to renounce their new faith.
Pressure also comes from the authorities, and this could likely increase in the near future. The legal process for registering a church is arduous and protracted, and legal roadblocks have occasionally been used to prevent Christians from gathering, significantly impacting their sense of community. Believers can also face discrimination in the public sector workplace; they seldom secure jobs within local government services, and promotions are frequently denied.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
The areas outside the main cities are where Christians tend to experience persecution. Taking advantage of the pandemic, Islamic militants have been able to expand their areas of influence, which has put more Christians under pressure.
"I would like you to pray for me. Currently, I live with a Christian family and I am well nourished. I am well protected in this Christian family. But I would like you to pray for me so that my faith will not grow cold, and that my mom will give her life to Christ."Halima, persecuted by her mother because of her faith
What has changed this year?
Last year's military coup marks a new era of insecurity and uncertainty for Niger and its Christians. It’s unclear what this may mean in the long-term, but what is clear is the sense of sadness and discouragement felt by Nigerien believers, particularly as the nation had not long ago been seen as a safe haven in a very unstable region. There is a growing concern among experts that the occupation in Niger could alter the entire security arrangement in the region, a framework that has been in place for the past decade.
Amid rising extremism in the country, Christians and churches have been increasingly targeted. It’s been another enormously difficult time for many of our sisters and brothers in the country, reflecting the challenges felt more widely by believers across Sub-Saharan Africa.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Niger?
Open Doors works through partners in Niger to strengthen persecuted Christians through economic empowerment programmes, leadership and discipleship training, persecution survival training and pastoral care for new believers.
How can you pray for Niger?
- Please pray for stability following the military coup, and that the influence of extremist groups would not grow.
- Pray for the protection of Christians living under the threat of violence from Islamic militants.
- Ask that believers from Muslim backgrounds will find fellowship and know that they are not alone.
Lord Jesus, restore peace and stability to Niger and bring good from the upheaval and pain caused by last year's military coup. Keep our family encouraged, faithful and passionate for You amid rising challenges, and protect them from all evil and harm. Frustrate the plans of those who want to stir up violence and division, and lead them to You. Heal our brothers and sisters who are carrying pain, meet every need, and help Your children to keep their eyes fixed on You during difficult moments. May Your face shine powerfully on Your people, giving them strength and drawing others to You. Spirit of the living God, have Your way in Niger. Amen.