Year: 2019
World Watch List: 12
Score: 80
Leader: President Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
Population: 195.9 million
Christian: 91.1 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
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression

Twelve Sharia states

Nigeria is split into two distinct regions: the north which is mainly Muslim, and the south which is largely Christian. It is in the north where Christians face intense and violent persecution. Twelve states in Northern Nigeria have Sharia (Islamic law) implemented; other states in the area are also greatly influenced. Christians feel the pressure to dress like Muslims to avoid being attacked, and experience discrimination when searching for employment. Because of their faith, children and youth have difficulty finding schools that will accept them. The kidnapping of Christian students from schools is common, so some parents have decided not to send their children to schools. The community will also attack churches, especially those who try to integrate converts from Islam. There are many underground house churches in Northern Nigeria for believers from a Muslim background. They face death threats, beatings, and arrests if they are discovered. Many of them have left that part of the country.

Over 20,000 Christians attacked

In the WWL19 reporting period, 29,444 properties belonging to Christians and 569 churches were damaged, 21,850 Christians attacked, and 3,731 believers killed. Most of the attacks were carried out by extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, as well as the militant Fulani herdsmen.

Boko Haram remains to be a threat to Christians in northeast Nigeria despite claims that they have been defeated. They are still attacking, killing, and abducting Christians, and have not given up on their goal of establishing an Islamic state in the area. The Fulani herdsmen have proved to be even deadlier than Boko Haram in the past months. They descend on predominantly Christian villages in the Middle Belt region, attacking and killing everyone, even women and children, so that they can take over their land. There are thousands of displaced believers, and they do not receive much aid from the government.

Gender specific persecution

Young Christian women are often abducted, sexually assaulted and raped by Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen. Many have also been forced into marriage to Muslim men.

Male Christians are targeted by Boko Haram during their attacks, either to kill them, or to force them to join their group.


  • Christians in the 12 states with Sharia face discrimination in many aspects of life. Pray that they will not be discouraged but have the grace to continue serving God despite their persecution and be filled with hope. Pray that they will not be tempted to give up the faith in pursuit of an easier life.
  • Despite the challenges, the Nigerian church continues to grow. Pray for wisdom, courage, and true servanthood for pastors. Pray that they will have the necessary resources to lead their congregations to the full knowledge of God, filled with hope and endurance.
  • For strength, protection and godly wisdom for Open Doors’ workers as they seek to minister to the broken-hearted. Pray that their compassionate care will assure our brothers and sisters that they are loved and never alone.


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World Watch List

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