Almost half of Nigerians are Christians – 98 million people from a population of 211.4 million – but most of these are in the south of the country. Northern Nigeria is largely Muslim, and it’s in the north and the central region of Nigeria that most persecution of Christians happens.
What does persecution look like in Nigeria?
MPersecution in Nigeria is brutally violent. In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with impunity. While all citizens of northern Nigeria are subject to threats and violence, Christians are often specifically targeted because of their faith. ISWAP and Boko Haram want to eliminate the Christian presence in Nigeria, and Muslim Fulani militants attack Christian villages specifically. In addition to the risk of violence, Christians in some of Nigeria's northern states also live under Shariah law, where they face discrimination and treatment as second-class citizens. Christians who convert from Islam also face rejection from their families, often pressured to recant their faith in Jesus, sometimes violently attacked.
In many ways, vulnerability depends on where a Christian is based in Nigeria. Remote villages in Nigeria's Middle Belt region are at risk of attacks from Fulani militants or other violent actors, and these attacks have begun to spread into southern Nigeria. In the northeast, any community of believers is at risk of attack from Boko Haram or ISWAP. Because of the violence, thousands of Christians are forced to live in formal or informal camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). This makes them more vulnerable, because people who have lost their home or loved ones are now effectively refugees within their own country. Women and girls tend to be doubly vulnerable —and anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity is most vulnerable of all.
Rose is a Christian in Nigeria whose husband was murdered by Fulani militants
“When I lost my husband, my in-laws never cared about me; they didn’t come to check on me or the children. When [our daughter] Patience died, I thought they would rally around me, but nobody came. I felt so pained in my heart … But I decided to let go of my bitterness and let God heal me.”Rose
What has changed compared to last year?
Christians continue to be attacked indiscriminately and brutally in northern Nigeria, and Nigeria's rank on the World Watch List has risen accordingly. The violence has continued unabated, making it one of the only countries in the world where COVID-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns had little impact on attacks against Christians. Christians in northern Nigeria remain at risk of daily pressure and discrimination as well.
The attacks and insecurity have now spread to southern Nigeria. Fulani militants and other violent actors have settled into southern forests, making it difficult for Christian farmers to access their land.
Open Doors partners with the local church in northern Nigeria to strengthen, support, equip and provide assistance to persecuted believers through trauma counselling (including a trauma centre), Bibles and discipleship training, socio-economic aid, literacy projects and worldwide prayer support.
- Please pray that President Buhari and state governors will diligently and transparently work to find lasting solutions to the deepening security crisis in northern Nigeria.
- The level of trauma among Christians is reaching crisis levels. Pray for healing and hope. Pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen their faith and that Christians will continually be able to provide a reason to anyone that asks for the hope that is in them.
- Pray that Open Doors’ work in the country will bear fruit. Pray for continued protection and wisdom for our partners who must travel and risk attack and/or abduction. Pray that our work will strengthen the church in Nigeria and restore hope.
Dear Father, we pray with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. So many hurting people have been traumatized and broken; we ask for miraculous healing, of body, mind and spirit. Restore your people, oh Lord. Build your church in Nigeria and make it a beacon of hope throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In Jesus' name, Amen.