News Nigeria | 20 February 2024

Every 2 hours, a Nigerian Christian is killed for their faith


Show: true / Country: Nigeria / Nigeria
On Christmas Day 2023, while most of us were enjoying time with family, friends and worshiping in our churches, the residents of 36 villages in the Middle Belt of Nigeria were fleeing in terror.

The villages were home to farmers—and most of them are Christian families. The attackers were Fulani militants.

The attacks on Christmas left around 200 believers dead, thousands of homes in ruins, and tens of thousands of people displaced as they fled for their lives.

“I don’t know why they did it,” said Pastor Mallo*, who serves in the region. “But these Fulani [militants] seem bent on stopping the spread of the gospel. I think they attacked us to torment and frighten us. To make us question our faith.”

Sadly, for Christians in Nigeria (ranked No. 6 on the 2024 World Watch List), this isn’t an isolated incident. Because, once again, Nigeria is the deadliest place in the world for followers of Jesus.

Open Doors’ annual World Watch List research (conducted from Oct. 1, 2022-Sep. 30, 2023) shows the horrifying cost of discipleship for Christians in parts of Nigeria. During this year-long period, 4,118 Christians were killed for their faith in Jesus. In fact, Nigeria alone accounts for 82% of the total number of believers killed during the reporting period.

On average, that’s more than 11 Christians killed, every day.

That means a Nigerian believer was killed nearly every two hours.

“There is nothing we can do,” said Yohannes*, another believer who was impacted in the Christmas Day attacks. “We are just here, suffering.”

That might as well be a refrain for thousands of believers across Nigeria: “We are just here, suffering.”

And, sadly, it’s not even the full scope of what God’s people endure in Africa’s most populous country.

The 2024 World Watch List  research also shows that the highest number of Christians in the world are abducted for their faith in Nigeria. More than 3,300 Nigerian Christians were abducted during the research period—84% of the global total.

It’s also important to note that Open Doors’ research is likely a significant undercount. Because our research team relies on firsthand accounts and verifiable incidents, and we know that many violent attacks are never reported, the true numbers are likely far greater.

The other stats are equally shocking—and should drive us to pray. At least 1,000 Nigerians were victims of sexual violence or sexual harassment; more than 10,000 Nigerians were physically or mentally abused; over 10,000 homes and properties belonging to believers were attacked; and, at a minimum, 100,000 Nigerian Christians were forced out of their homes and communities.

Simply put, Nigeria is a country in crisis. And the violence is staggering across the region—sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most violent place in the world for Jesus’ followers.

We must not forget that God is still at work in the lives and witnesses of our Nigerian brothers and sisters. “We believe that God is in control,” Pastor Mallo said. “Our faith will not be shaken. We will continue to serve the God who made heaven and earth.”

In photo: Pastor Zachariah 

Pastor Zachariah, whose wife and children were killed in another attack in the same part of Nigeria, echoes this. “I tell my members and my children that they should hold on to God dearly because death does not only come when you fall ill, it can come in the form of an accident and attack,” he says. “We lost a lot of people ... I continue to encourage them that everyone should know that when it is your time, nothing can change that. Be close to God and make him your Savior so that when you die you will continue to stay with Him.”

One of the things Open Doors does in Nigeria is to help with trauma care for Christians impacted by the violence. Many of these believers carry wounds that last far beyond the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
Pastor Zachariah attended some of these trauma care programs. He received counseling and trauma healing care. And it’s helped him continue to show radical faith and resilience that should inspire all of us who claim the name of Christ.

“This teaching [at the program] has encouraged me greatly because right now I am asking God to forgive [the attackers who killed my family], and for them to enter the Kingdom of God and not to die in their sins just as the Bible has told us,” he says.

This is the true power of the Holy Spirit at work in Nigeria. Yes, the numbers are horrifying, and the reality is something that each of us needs to pray for. But God’s people in Nigeria—and across sub-Saharan Africa—are resilient. The church is ready to continue to be salt and light, even when they know they might be killed.

God’s gift to us is that, through Him, we can encourage and stand with them. Will you join them in prayer, right now?

“Then the King will say … ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” —Matthew 25

*Names have been changed to protect security.

please pray

We can take action right now, wherever we are, by standing with our family in Nigeria through prayer with them and for them.

  • Pray for the victims of violence and their families, that they would find healing and hope.
  • Ask God to bring stability to the parts of Nigeria where militants seem to attack with impunity. Pray that order would be possible.
  • Pray for displaced Christians in northern Nigeria. Ask that God will provide in their daily needs so that they can rebuild their lives and fulfill His Great Commission.
  • Pray for the relationship between herders and farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. This region can be a flashpoint for violence. Ask God to bring about a peace only He can provide. 

Will you consider giving regularly to the persecuted church?

Open Doors aims to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev 3:2). Your Monthly Donation can help us provide continuous support to the persecuted church worldwide and enable us to respond immediately to emergency situations.


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