Nigeria has moved into the top 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch List due to the number of Christians there who are being killed for their faith.
“More Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country,” said Open Door’s latest fact sheet for the country.
Nigeria was No. 12 on the 2020 World Watch List. It ranks No. 9 on the 2021 list.
Open Doors USA highlighted Nigeria during a news conference on Jan. 13 announcing the 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.
10 Christians killed each day
On average, about 10 Christians are killed for their faith every single day, said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors.
Several extremist groups (Boko Haram, Hausa-Fulani, Muslim militant herdsmen and ISWAP) are all common in north and central Nigeria and becoming more common farther south, where they are driving believers who survive.
“The women and children they leave behind are often displaced to informal camps, face sexual violence, and are even at risk of abduction and forced marriage,” according to the report.
With a population of more than 206 million people, just over 46.3% are Christian, but it’s not enough to combat the risk believers face because the Islamic forces maintain a stronghold.
Curry said extremists are using COVID-19 restrictions to perpetrate crimes on believers and other religious minorities.
In 2020, Boko Haram and ISIS-related extremists executed 12 Christians in the Borno state of Nigeria, on the border of Chad and Cameroon (No. 42 on the 2021 WWL).
Curry said extremists have been “emboldened” by the weak government and COVID-19 restrictions to steal food and medical supplies. In Northeast Nigeria, only 15% of emergency rations have been distributed properly.
“It’s a call to stand and advocate for religious freedom,” he said.
In his report, Curry shared the story of Afordia, who watched as her husband was killed on the side of the road by Boko Haram, dressed similarly to Nigerian Army officers.
“So, I was busy with the women at the clinic,” Afordia said, when people started running. She tried calling for her family but the telecommunication system was down.
“I don’t know what was happening,” she said. She was finally able to reach her husband on the cell phone. When they reunited, they were fleeing together with their children in a car and were stopped by Boko Haram in the road.
“That was when my heart was afraid,” she said. The officers asked if her husband was an infidel or Muslim.
When he replied that he was not an infidel nor a Muslim, but he was a Christian, the men ordered him to the side of the road, where he knelt and prayed. After he laid on the ground, he continued to pray as the officers began to shoot.
“They were only looking for Christians,” she said, not knowing what to do. She couldn’t tell if she was stuck in a horrific dream. “I was just there speechless,” when she said she felt led to pray.
The officers asked her the same question, “Are you an infidel or a Muslim?” She closed her eyes to pray and meet her Maker, when someone shouted at the officers not to kill a woman.
They took her money and supplies. The officers killed the next driver but put that man’s children in her car with her family and told her to go back to the town hospital.
“As I was returning, I was praying in my heart, ‘Please Lord, help me to escape. I don’t want to go back to the town. I want to escape,’” she pleaded.
While Afordia did not know an exact number of people killed that day, she listed 10 neighbors and friends who had lost their lives.
She called her husband “a man of courage” and defender of the faith. She said Revelation 2:19 was especially meaningful for her. “He knows it,” she said, referring to God knowing the deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance of His followers.
Curry called the murders in Nigeria genocide, reminiscent of Iraq when ISIS attacked Christians on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 2010. “Boko Haram and Hausa-Fulani have been attacking and gaining ground,” Curry said, driving Christians to the south or out of the country.
Open Doors USA releases an annual watch list to help believers know how to pray for their brothers and sisters scattered around the globe facing persecution.
“I would like the Americans to pray for us, for God to deliver us from such cruel killings, and then for God to strengthen our faith and heal our heart from the traumas that we have gone through,” Afordia said.
Open Doors offered four prayer points for believers who will pray for Nigeria:
- Pray for the Lord’s grace and comfort for believers who are displaced, have lost loved ones and their homes and are struggling with trauma.
- Ask the Lord to be near to abducted believers. Pray for their release or rescue.
- Pray for President Muhammadu Buhari and his government — pray they will take decisive actions to protect all citizens.
- Pray that Open Doors partners will strengthen the church to testify and share the gospel in very difficult circumstances.
To receive prayer requests from persecuted believers, download Open Doors’ prayer app for smartphones at OpenDoorsUSA.org/PrayerApp.
Read more on the Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List by clicking here.