What does persecution look like in Nigeria?
Christians in Nigeria suffer persecution from an ingrained agenda of enforced Islamisation, which is particularly prevalent in the north of the country and has gradually been spreading south.
Since the northern states declared allegiance to Sharia (Islamic law) in 1999, this enforced Islamisation has gained momentum, by violent and non-violent means. Attacks by Islamic militant groups have increased consistently since 2015, but the government has failed to prevent the rise in violence, which affects all Nigerians, but particularly Christians.
The violence is most pervasive in the north, where militant groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants inflict murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence on their victims. Christians are dispossessed of their land and their means of livelihood. Many live as internally displaced people or refugees.
In the Sharia states of northern Nigeria, Christians face discrimination and exclusion as second-class citizens. Christians from a Muslim background also face rejection from their own families, pressure to give up Christianity, and often physical violence.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Persecution is most severe and most prevalent in the north, where militant groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants seem to increasingly work together against Christians, and against Muslims who don't support their agenda. The raids on Christian communities, and other forms of violence, lead to large numbers of Christians (and other Nigerians) being forced to live in camps for internally displaced people. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in these camps. Children suffer health issues, and women and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking.
As well as direct violence, Christians in northern Nigeria are habitually treated as second-class citizens and suffer discrimination and hostility. Christians from a Muslim background also face rejection from their own families, pressure to give up Christianity, and often physical violence.
Violence and land grabbing are not limited to the north alone. Fulani militants have carried these practices into the southern regions, where communities, villages and other locations have been invaded. The invasion of communities in the south must be understood differently, however. People have not been driven away from their villages, but instead found that their forests and farmlands have been taken over by Fulani militants (and Shuwa Arabs).
"We were working in the fields of our farm when armed men approached us. They kidnapped three of us. They later killed my two friends. I am the only one living.”Agnes, a survivor of abduction by Boko Haram
What has changed this year?
Violence remains the most dangerous and prevalent threat in Nigeria. Christians continue to be attacked indiscriminately and brutally in northern Nigeria, and the violence has now spread to southern Nigeria. Fulani militants and 'bandits' have settled in southern forests, making access to farmlands increasingly difficult for Christian farmers. These militants pose a significant threat to Christian women and girls, who may be subjected to sexual harassment and forced marriage.
Abductions for ransom have increased considerably over recent years, including the abduction of church leaders.
As the government persists in its official position of denial of religious persecution, Christians' rights continue to be violated with impunity.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Nigeria?
Open Doors works through local church partners to strengthen Christians in Nigeria with discipleship and persecution survival training, trauma care, relief aid and economic empowerment projects.
How can you pray for Nigeria?
- Thank God for the courageous faith of believers in Nigeria, who refuse to deny Christ despite the dangers they face
- For an end to the violence inflicted by militant groups across Nigeria
- That Open Doors partners can reach more survivors of violence and abduction with trauma care and persecution survival training.
Dear Father, the violence and brutality across Nigeria is unimaginable. Please intervene to stop these evil attacks and work in the hearts of the militants to turn them from hatred to Your love. Heal Your people who are traumatised by attacks. Give them fresh hope for the future and the means to support themselves financially and socially. Bring about change in the government to protect Christians, and help the president and state governors to work transparently to find lasting solutions to the deepening security crisis in Nigeria. Amen.