A new report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has revealed that Nigeria is the country with the highest number of missing people in the world. Many of those who are missing have been kidnapped because of their faith, or displaced by faith-based attacks.
The report was published on 12 September, showing that 22,000 Nigerians have been registered with the ICRC as missing since 2013. This number is just those who are still missing, and does not include those who have subsequently been found or released.
“EVERY PARENT’S WORST NIGHTMARE”
Children are particularly vulnerable. Almost 60 per cent of those missing were minors when they went missing. Their parents still don’t know whether their children are alive or dead.
“Every parent’s worst nightmare is not knowing where their child is,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer at the report’s launch in Abuja. “This is the tragic reality for thousands of Nigerian parents.”
The report covers all who have been taken or are missing, regardless of the reason, and doesn’t give a statistic on the number taken for their Christian faith – but we have read many stories why that is the reason children or adults are taken. The schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram from the Christian town of Chibok, for instance, many of whom remain in captivity. And Leah Sharibu, the only girl who wasn’t released when she and over 100 pupils were taken. She was kept because she won’t recant her faith in Jesus.
Alongside those who have been abducted or detained, many Nigerians go missing when families are separated as they flee attacks in northeast Nigeria. These attacks are mainly perpetrated by Boko Haram or groups of Fulani militants. Often multiple attacks will mean the same people are displaced more than once.
Since ICRC received its first cases in 2013, they have solved 367. That is a joy for those families who can be reunited with their loved ones, but is a small percentage of the outstanding cases. The ICRC’s methods to trace missing people include going door-to-door in camps and communities, sharing photographs and doing on-the-ground searches. But large swathes of northeast Nigeria remain completely inaccessible to humanitarian organisations.
The ICRC workers show remarkable courage in their activities. In 2018, two ICRC health works were abducted from a clinic in Borno State and murdered. Let’s pray for their protection, and that they will be successful in locating missing people and reuniting them with their families.
Nigeria is number 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Life for Christians in the country differs considerably, with believers in the north facing high levels of persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists. Open Doors partners with the local church to strengthen persecuted believers in Nigeria with training, community development, emergency relief, trauma care and legal assistance.
- for the many missing persons and their families who are still hoping for news about their loved ones
- for safety of humanitarian workers in the northeast of Nigeria, including Open Doors partners
- for resilience and faith for Nigerian believers in the face of extreme persecution.