World Watch List: 12
Leader: President Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
Population: 200 million
Christian: 93.7 million
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Federal Republic
Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in Nigeria through:
- Persecution preparedness
- Community Transformation
- Christian education
- Care and discipleship programmes for new believers
- Servant leadership development
- Trauma Counselling
- Emergency Relief
- Legal assistance
“I have been feeling numb since then. I have not been able to grieve and process my pains. During the programme I broke down and cried for the first time. That night I slept well without any bad dreams for the first time.”
– A participant of Open Doors’ trauma healing programme in Nigeria who lost his daughter in an attack by Muslims.
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression
Christians face existential threat
In 1999, Nigeria’s northern states adopted elements of Sharia (Islamic law) following a gradual trend of Islamisation in the area since the 19th century. Most Christians in the south of the country are able to live out their faith freely, but believers living in the north and Middle Belt region face violent persecution.
In recent years, attacks on Christians have been more ferocious and daring. They not only are contending with attacks from Boko Haram; now they are set upon by ISWAP — an affiliate of Islamic State — and militants among the mostly Muslim ethnic Fulani herdsmen. The government is widely criticized for a feckless response to the attacks and kidnappings carried out by the herdsmen, which have brought violence and devastation to Christian communities across the country’s midsection. Violence affects Nigerians of all kinds, including Muslims, but Christians are experiencing an existential threat.
Discrimination, abductions, and killings
In some northern states, increasing numbers of Christians are dressing like Muslims to make their faith less obvious and reduce the chances of attack. Young Christians in these states frequently are denied access to higher education, and Christians have been asked to give up their faith in order to obtain work. Applications for permits to build churches are ignored. Christian women and girls are in danger of being abducted and forced to marry Muslim men. Christians who were displaced by violence in the region face discrimination when government aid is distributed because of their faith.
The situation is especially difficult for converts from Islam to Christianity in the north. They often have to flee their homes and even the state to avoid being harassed or killed.
- Thank the Lord for the freedom Christians in the south enjoy to live out their faith. Pray for greater engagement from the church in the south with the church in northern parts of the country.
- Pray for extraordinary grace as Nigerian believers deal with the constant threat of violence. Pray that the church will be able to withstand the pressure to give up their faith, and have the grace to respond to their challenges in a way that glorifies Christ.
- Thousands of women remain in Boko Haram captivity. Pray for their liberation. They face harsh physical circumstances like lack of hygiene, food, water, and medicine. Please pray that the Lord will sustain them and provide for them.