Nigeria

World Watch ranking: 6
Map thumbnail
Leader
President Bola Tinubu

How many Christians?
103 million (46.4%)

Main threats
  • Islamic oppression
  • Ethno-religious hostility 

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How many Christians are there in Nigeria?

There are almost 103 million Christians in Nigeria, which is almost half the country’s population of 222 million. In the Muslim-majority north of the country, the proportion of Christians is much lower – this is traditionally where most persecution of Christians has happened – but it continues to spread further south.


How are Christians persecuted in Nigeria?

Christians in Nigeria continue to be terrorised with devastating impunity by Islamic militants and armed ‘bandits’ – particularly in the north and central regions of the country. The attacks are often brutal in nature and can involve destruction of properties, abductions for ransom, sexual violence and death. Believers are stripped of their livelihoods and driven from their homes, leaving a trail of grief and trauma. 

More believers are killed for their faith in Nigeria each year than everywhere else in the world, combined. Men and boys are often specifically targeted, to undermine the growth of Christian families in the future. Women and girls face abduction and sexual violence, with the knowledge that sometimes their communities reject them when they come home.

Violence by Islamic extremist groups such as Fulani militants, Boko Haram and ISWAP (Islamic State in West African Province) increased during the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, putting Nigeria at the epicentre of targeted violence against the church. The government’s failure to protect Christians and punish perpetrators has only strengthened the militants’ influence. The implications of the new president, Bola Tinubu, are not yet clear.

Christians living in the Sharia (Islamic law) states of northern Nigeria can also face discrimination and tremendous pressure as second-class citizens. Believers from Muslims backgrounds often experience rejection from their own families and pressure to renounce their new faith.

Meet Pastor Zachariah

“My prayer is that we should rely on God, because He is everything we live for.” pastor zachariah, whose wife and children were killed by fulani militants

What’s life like for Christians in Nigeria?

Pastor Zachariah has truly counted the cost for following Jesus. Just after midnight on 15 May 2023, his village in central Nigeria was attacked by Fulani militants. “All I could see were burnt houses around,” he remembers. “I searched to see if I could find my wife or children – only to find their lifeless bodies. My wife and I did everything together. We walked hand in hand with each other. That day, I cried like never before.”

It’s hard to imagine anything more dreadful. Pastor Zachariah’s faith was terribly shaken. “I felt as if God had forsaken me,” he says. “If God is in control, why would He allow this kind of attack on us?”

Thankfully, that’s not the end of Pastor Zachariah’s story. Open Doors local partners came quickly to help the community with trauma care and counselling – just one of many ways they support believers in Nigeria, including relief aid, economic empowerment, discipleship and persecuted survival training. The trauma care has had an extraordinary impact on Pastor Zachariah. “I am now asking God to forgive the militants,” he says. “Had I not come for this counselling, I would not have been living a good life – I could not sleep, as my thoughts kept going back to the attacks. But now my mind is at rest.”

Pastor Zachariah’s prayer is this: “Help me pray for our members to be strengthened in the faith, so that we can continue to work for Christ here on earth and not to be afraid. I am also pleading with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ to pray that God will help me to provide for our four remaining children – for God to encourage them to hold on to Him and never turn back.”

How can I help Christians in Nigeria?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors works through local church partners in Nigeria to strengthen Christians with discipleship and persecution survival training, trauma care, relief aid and economic empowerment projects.

please pray

Dear Father, so many of our sisters and brothers have experienced such horror and trauma. Pour Your unfailing comfort into their hearts, heal their wounds, refresh their spirits and restore their lives. Guard believers who are at risk of attack, and surround them with Your peace and presence. Strengthen, protect and encourage leaders who face enormous pressures and dangers. Bring peace, stability and safety throughout Nigeria, stem the influence of those who wish to stir up violence, and move the new government to do more to protect Your children. Amen.

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