World Watch Ranking: 6

What does persecution look like in Nigeria?

Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the Muslim-majority north, continue to live under immense pressure and to be terrorized with devastating impunity by Islamic militants and armed "bandits." More believers are killed for their faith in Nigeria each year, than everywhere else in the world combined. The attacks are often brutal in nature and can involve destruction of properties, abductions for ransom, sexual violence and death. Believers are stripped of their livelihoods and driven from their homes, leaving a trail of grief and trauma.

Violence by Islamic extremist groups such as Fulani militants, Boko Haram and ISWAP (Islamic State in West African Province) increased during the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, putting Nigeria at the epicenter of targeted violence against the church. The government’s failure to protect Christians and punish perpetrators has only strengthened the militants’ influence.

The rise of Islamic militancy occurs against the backdrop of climate change, environmental degradation and population growth, pushing Fulani herdsmen, whose origins are pastoral and Islamic, and their cattle southwards. This is creating tensions with other farmers, including Christians. Among the Fulani are militants who have turned disputes into something far more sinister, with attacks being driven by ethnic and religious ties.

Christians living in the Shariah (Islamic law) states of northern Nigeria can also face discrimination and oppression as second-class citizens. Converts from Islam often experience rejection from their own families and pressure to renounce their new faith.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

The persecution of believers is most common in the northern Shariah states, where the small pockets of Christian communities in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to violent attacks. However, attacks are increasingly spreading southward, to where the majority of Nigeria’s Christians live.

Meet Zachariah

“I am pleading with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ to help me pray that God will help me to provide for our four remaining children that are with me after my wife died, and for God to encourage them to hold on to Him and never turn back."

Pastor Zachariah, who lost his wife and son in an attack on his village in May 2023

What has changed this year?

Last year saw the installation of a new president, with Bola Ahmed Tinubu replacing Muhammadu Buhari, and it’s unclear what this might mean for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

Despite both Buhari and Tinubu being Muslim, the new president has carried out a major reshuffle, which provides a better representative balance of the two faiths than was in place under Buhari. This might cause a positive shift toward acknowledging the extent of the human rights violations being perpetrated against Christians, and lead to more effective intervention by security forces to protect Christians. However, proof of this has yet to be provided.

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Nigeria?

Open Doors works through local church partners in Nigeria to strengthen Christians with discipleship and persecution survival training, trauma care, relief aid and economic empowerment projects.

How can you pray for Nigeria?

  • Please pray that victims of violence and their families will find healing and hope in Jesus.
  • Pray for peace, stability and safety in the areas where militants seem to attack with impunity.
  • Pray for Open Doors partners helping displaced Christians with practical aid and spiritual care.
a Prayer for Nigeria

Dear Father, so many of our sisters and brothers have experienced such horror and trauma. Pour Your unfailing comfort into their hearts, heal their wounds, refresh their spirits and restore their lives. Guard believers who are at risk of attack, and surround them with Your peace and presence. Help them as they seek to respond to persecution in a biblical way, so that their lives lead others to You. Strengthen, protect and encourage leaders who face enormous pressures and dangers. Bring peace, stability and safety throughout Nigeria, stem the influence of those who wish to stir up violence, and move the new government to do more to protect Your children. Amen.

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Persecution Level


Persecution Type
  • Islamic oppression
  • Ethno-religious hostility
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Organized corruption and crime

Population of Christians
102,988,000 (46%)

Main Religion

Federal Presidential Republic

President Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu

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