How many Christians are there in Nigeria?
There are just over 98 million Christians in Nigeria – that’s almost half of the country’s 211.5 million population.
How are Christians persecuted in Nigeria?
The persecution facing Christians in Nigeria is extreme and often brutally violent, as Islamic militants and armed bandits attack with increasing impunity.
This mostly affects believers living in the Muslim-majority north and Middle Belt, but it’s also spreading to the south. Although all civilians are subject to threats and violence, Christians are often specifically targeted because of their faith. Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), for example, want to eliminate the presence of Christianity in Nigeria.
Men and boys are often specifically targeted by extremist groups, with the aim of destroying livelihoods and stifling Christian population growth. Christian women and girls in northern Nigeria, and increasingly further south, are vulnerable to persecution for their faith and gender.
Troublingly, discrimination against Christian men has also been reported within the government armed forces, with Christian soldiers sent to the most dangerous areas where they’re acutely at risk at being killed by Boko Haram or other extremist groups.
In northern states that operate under Sharia (Islamic law), Christians can be treated as second-class citizens, whilst Christians who convert from Islam are also at risk of pressure and persecution.
“By His grace we all joined our hearts, we are not going to denounce Christ. For us to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” Amina, whose husband was killed by boko haram
What’s life like for Christians in Nigeria?
When Boko Haram stormed Amina’s home in Nigeria, her husband and two sons could have escaped harm if they denied Jesus. They refused – but it came at a tragically awful cost. Daniel, her husband, was killed. The two sons miraculously survived.
That wasn’t the end of the story. Five years later, Amina was in a van with five men and ten other women travelling to the funeral of her sister-in-law when it was stopped by Boko Haram militants. The men were killed and the women abducted and held deep in the Sambisa Forest under the yoke of Boko Haram control.
The women faced enormous pressure to renounce their faith in Jesus, but they courageously stood firm. Thankfully, after eight months in captivity, they were freed. On her release, Amina broke out into song: “By His grace I am alive, that is why I am singing. Jehovah saved my life.”
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Nigeria?
Christians continue to be attacked indiscriminately and brutally in Nigeria, especially in the north, and Nigeria's rank has risen accordingly by two places. The violence has continued unabated – one of the only places in the world where Covid-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns had little impact on attacks against Christians. Attacks have also spread south, despite these regions being Christian-majority. Fulani militants, and other violent groups, have settled into southern forests, making it difficult for Christian farmers to access their land.
How can I help Christians in Nigeria?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through church partners to strengthen Christians in Nigeria with discipleship and persecution survival training, trauma care and economic empowerment projects.
Dear God, intervene to halt and thwart the activities of extremist groups and armed bandits in Nigeria. Protect Christians and churches from attack, and pour Your peace into fearful hearts. Heal all those traumatised by attacks. Give Your children strength to hold onto You, despite suffering, and may they tangibly feel Your presence with them. Equip and empower believers in their response to persecution. Stir the government and security forces to do more to protect Christians. Amen.