There are more Christians in Africa than in anywhere else in the world
. And within Africa, Nigeria is home to the most Christians. Pew Research estimates there are more than 87 million Christians in Nigeria
, and that number is projected to skyrocket in the coming decades.
Yet, according to the most recent Open Doors research
, more than 5,000 Nigerian believers were killed for their faith over the course of 12 months. That’s more than 13 Christians killed on average every day.
That’s more than one believer killed, every hour.
And it’s not just killings. During the same period, more than 4,700 Christians in Nigeria were also abducted because they follow Jesus, and at least 1,000 believers were raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed for their faith. Christians were forced to flee and go into hiding—more than 10,000 in Nigeria during this reporting period. And more than 10,000 followers of Jesus were physically or mentally abused for their faith.
These numbers are staggering and should drive us to our knees.
But each death is more than a number.
The faith behind the numbers
While these statistics are sobering and overwhelming, behind each one is a story—a story like Ayuba’s*
. Ayuba is a young Nigerian man whose village was attacked by the Boko Haram, the infamous Islamic extremist group. He and his siblings fled but were separated from his father.
“The next morning, everywhere was silent,” says Ayuba, who spent the night of the attack hiding in the bush with his siblings. “When we approached our home, I could see three bodies on the ground. I recognized my father by his clothing. I went to his side, dropped to my knees, and prayed.”
Ayuba’s father was one of nine Christians slaughtered by Islamic extremists that night in northeastern Nigeria. Militants had asked Ayuba’s father if he was a Muslim or a Christian. He refused to hide his faith in Jesus and replied, “Christian.” He was beheaded on the spot.
Ayuba later discovered his own name was on a Boko Haram kill list, and he had to flee his village.
This is the reality faced by our brothers and sisters in parts of Nigeria. The Christian killed every two hours in Nigerian might be someone like Ayuba’s dad. Or it could be someone like Agnes, whose friends were abducted and killed. Or it could be a believer like Hajaratu, a Christian who lost her daughter while fleeing Fulani militants.
There are countless stories behind the statistics. Each person killed was a mom, dad, brother, sister, friend and colleague. Each one leaves behind a community that mourns.
This should be enough to break the church in Nigeria—which is the point. The goal of the enemy is to defeat God’s Church at every turn. It would be easy to assume the darkness is winning in Nigeria.
But that assumption would be a mistake.
A violent place, a resilient church
The church in Nigeria—and across sub-Saharan Africa—is growing and resilient. Courageous Christians are ensuring the gospel is lived out even in the difficult circumstances. Ayuba, the young man who lost his father, is a perfect example of this truth. He was consumed with rage because of his dad’s murder; he wanted nothing except revenge. But he found healing and hope at the Open Doors Shalom Center, a trauma center in Nigeria.
He summed up what he learned in a single word: “Forgiveness,” he says with a smile. “I decided to let go of my anger and have peace. I learned to leave everything at the feet of Jesus.”
This is the reality for God’s people in Nigeria: Shocking violence and the hope of Jesus.
But Nigerian Christians need to know they aren’t alone. The staggering violence impacting African believers demands a response. That’s why Open Doors is launching a four-year campaign to mobilize and unite the global Church to stand with their brothers and sisters in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa. Our brothers and sisters are resilient and courageous, growing the church amidst the violence—and it’s our vision to equip them to continue to stand for Jesus, no matter what.
And we need your help.
The best way to support our family in sub-Saharan Africa is to simply pray.
Ayuba explains why this is so vital: “Firstly, I would tell [people] to pray, because without prayer nothing will work. I wouldn’t be here if not for prayers,” he says. The Bible tells us over and over again that prayer can change everything—and the church in Nigeria needs you to stand with them through prayer.
could give a month’s education to 4 young people to give them hope for the future
And finally, you can help with a financial gift
. Your support today will go to believers in sub-Saharan Africa who risk so much to follow Jesus.
Nigeria is the most violent place in the world for Christians. But it’s not hopeless. Thanks to your support and the prayers of believers around the world, Nigerian Christians aren’t alone. The statistics are overwhelming and the stories are devastating. But the hope of God is on the move, and that can never be stopped.