How many Christians are there in Nigeria?
There are 93.8 million Christians in Nigeria, making up 46.7 per cent of the population. In the south of the country, Nigerians are free to follow Jesus – but northern Nigeria and the ‘middle belt’ sees extreme Christian persecution.
Why are Christians persecuted in Nigeria?
Islamic extremists carry out horrific persecution in northern Nigeria. Twelve of the northern states are under Sharia (Islamic law), and persecution has increased since the 2015 election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari’s APC party is openly Islamist, and he has appointed Muslims to key positions – including the judiciary. There is little accountability for attacks by Islamic extremists, which include Fulani militants and ISWAP (an affiliate of so-called Islamic State) as well as Boko Haram.
“I want people to know that women here need trauma help because of the things that have happened. And those with resources can give support, so that many more women may be helped.” Esther, Nigeria
What’s life like for Christians in Nigeria?
Christian women and girls are in danger of being abducted and often forcibly married. Women like Esther – she was kidnapped by Boko Haram as a teenager and held for three years. She was told to choose marriage or slavery. She chose to become a slave, but was eventually forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter. Thankfully she escaped, seven months pregnant.
In some northern states, many Christians are dressing like Muslims as the only way to reduce the chances of being attacked. Christians in these states are frequently denied access to higher education, and are sometimes asked to give up their faith in order to get work.
Christians who have converted from Islam are particularly vulnerable. In the north, they often have to flee their homes, and are usually assisted by Open Doors partners in underground locations.
The coronavirus has brought fresh difficulties to Nigeria’s Christians. They have been the target of opportunist attacks in lockdown - in April, multiple attacks by militants on villages in the Middle Belt region led to the tragic deaths of 32 believers. The country's economy has been hit. Official aid is being distributed, but Christians in central and northern Nigeria are often last in line to benefit from government food and aid, simply because of their faith, and there is little hope of getting a job.
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.
- Every £20 could provide a widow with a loan to buy seeds so that she can start farming and become self-sufficient
Open Doors partners with the local church to strengthen persecuted believers in Nigeria through training, community development projects, emergency relief, trauma care and legal assistance.
Lord, please protect our Nigerian brothers and sisters as they face extreme persecution. Grant dignity and peace to Christian women who have been mistreated, that they will be seen, valued and empowered to reach their God-given potential. Please convict Islamic extremists of their sin and turn them to You.