How many Christians are there in Niger?
Only a tiny percentage of the 25 million people in Niger are Christians – just 64,700.
How are Christians persecuted in Niger?
Once a country known for cross-religious harmony, Niger has re-entered the top 50 of the World Watch List, reflecting how pressure is increasing on Christians in this Muslim-majority nation.
Most of the population regard Islam as part of their ethnicity: if you are a Nigerien, you are a Muslim. Believers from Muslim backgrounds are therefore the most vulnerable to persecution, and often come under intense pressure from their families and communities to renounce their faith.
Historical Christian communities are generally allowed to practise their faith in private, but in regions under Islamist control, Christians must gather with caution because of an increased threat of violence from militant groups like Boko Haram. In regions near the border with Nigeria, churches have been burned and pastors forced to flee their homes. Meanwhile, the local authorities have occasionally stopped believers from meeting, and the registration process for churches is long and difficult.
What’s life like for Christians in Niger?
Niger is a highly patriarchal society, and this makes Christian women vulnerable to persecution for their gender and faith. In certain areas of the country, women are highly at risk of abduction, rape and sexual abuse by extremist groups and others. Families do not report instances of rape because it will impact the victim's marriage prospects and bring shame to them. Last year, tragically, a Christian girl was raped by a policeman, further highlighting why Christian families might be reluctant to report crimes.
Christian men from Muslim backgrounds are vulnerable to severe persecution from their families. They could face rejection, expulsion from home, or house arrest. The psychological impact of this can be huge. In the wider community, Christian men can face dismissal from their jobs, or have their business boycotted by the Muslim community. As men and boys are usually the financial providers, this can have a detrimental impact on whole families.
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Niger?
A lot has changed – and it's highly disturbing. Persecution is getting much worse in Niger, with the country jumping 21 places to re-enter the World Watch List top 50. This is down to a dramatic rise in violence against Christians. In the past five years, the Sahel region has seen a huge increase in violent Islamist attacks and the government of Niger has lost a lot of territory to the jihadists. Since 2020, the country has been experiencing a series of attacks by Islamic militants. The unpredictability of the situation makes Christians vulnerable, reflecting a trend of increasing violence facing Christians across sub-Saharan Africa.
How can I help Christians in Niger?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Niger. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors partners in Niger strengthen persecuted Christians through economic empowerment programmes, leadership and discipleship training, persecution survival training and pastoral care for new believers.
Heavenly Father, strengthen, protect and heal Christians in Niger affected by persecution. Use them in bold ways among their families and communities. Encourage those who especially need it today. Intervene to diminish the influence of militant Islamist groups so that Niger may once again be a place of cross-religious harmony and all Christians can feel safe to gather for worship, celebration and fellowship. Amen.