Nigeria is roughly 50% Muslim and 50% Christian. The majority of Muslims live in the North and the South is mainly Christian, while the Middle Belt has roughly equal numbers. For Christians living in the Middle Belt and the North persecution is rife and life precarious. Christian communities are targeted in deadly “religious cleansing” assaults by jihadi Boko Haram, and in “your land or your blood” attacks by militant Fulani herdsmen.
Since 2015, extremist violence has killed more than 7,000 Christians. Thousands have been maimed, kidnapped or had their homes and livelihoods destroyed. “We are tired and we do not want to bother others about our tragedies. We seem always to be reporting deaths and attacks, and people are weary of our reports,” said a Middle Belt village head in 2020.
Fulani militant attacks on southern Kaduna’s Christian villages spiked in 2020, despite 24-hour Covid curfews. During three weeks in July, 171 deaths were recorded. The authorities and security forces seemed unable or unwilling to protect the mainly-Christian farming communities. After the massacre of 21 believers at a wedding, a church leader lamented, “it is as if the lives of Christians no longer matter”.
A convoy of 22 trucks loaded with heavily armed jihadists thundered into mainly-Christian Kukawa town, in the north-eastern state of Borno, on 18 August 2020, taking hundreds hostage. The 1,200 residents had only recently returned to their homes, full of hope to restart their lives and cultivate their farmlands after being displaced for two years.
Boko Haram is aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate in the north-east and seems to be seeking to “cleanse” its territory of any Christian presence. Twelve northern states instituted elements of sharia law between 2000 and 2001.
Ask the Lord to protect Nigerian Christians from relentless persecution and comfort them in their distress. Pray that the plans of terrorist groups will be thwarted and that the government will actively intervene against extremist violence.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet