Every two hours a Christian is killed for their faith.
“What amount of reproach for the name of Christ can we not bear or gladly tolerate? Reproach for His name’s sake comes with blessings as well,” declares Haggai leader Saul*.
He is part of the staggering statistic from Open Doors International** that has compiled the 2023 World Watch List (WWL), stating that 1 in 5 Christians in Africa live in nations with high levels of persecution or discrimination.
One of these countries is Saul’s home of Nigeria, which shows up as number six on the WWL of countries where it is hardest to follow Jesus. The WWL and The World Index of Christian Persecution concur that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. Of the 5,621 Christians in the world who were killed for their faith, 89% (or 5,014) of them lived in Nigeria.
Also from the WWL, Nigeria is listed as number one in several subcategories including: the most Christians killed, abducted, sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married, and physically or mentally abused, and the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. It is number two in the world for most churches attacked.
Nigeria is the largest populous nation of Africa, with about 200 million people. It used to have one of the strongest economies on the continent but it’s now eroded by massive corruption and an overwhelming debt burden. The ratio of Christians to Muslims is about 60:40 with the main Christian dominance in Southern Nigeria. So what makes Christians such a large target in this nation? Ethno-religious crises and ravaging poverty seem to be two of the top reasons. Jihadists groups have a strong hatred for Christians and are responsible for many of their deaths.
Southern Nigeria and most parts of North Central Nigeria are primarily comprised of Christians who have farmed the land for a very long time. Because of desertification and climate change, the nomadic Fulani people migrate to the fertile soil of the south, killing the Christians settled there and taking over their land.
Open Doors would suggest that a Christian is killed for their faith EVERY TWO HOURS in Nigeria. This adds up to 13 Christians a day and 372 Christians a month who perish because they said “yes” to Jesus and are hated by these factious groups. In May 2022, Deborah Yakubu, a Christian and university student in Sokoto, was beaten to death and set on fire by Muslim classmates who accused her of blasphemy. Leah Shuaibu was infamously abducted by Boko Haram alongside 110 other schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, in 2018. Leah is the only girl of that group who hasn’t been released, and that is because she refused to denounce her Christian faith.
The Christian watch group Open Doors fears that Nigeria will “soon trigger a vast humanitarian catastrophe across the continent.” That’s where people like Saul are making such a difference in a part of the world where most of us will never go. Facing things that most of us could never imagine including kidnappings/abductions for a ransom payment of cash.
Saul started an organization to try to counter what is going on around him. It is a holistic center that offers both medical and social services — all for free. The hospital cares for about 10,000 people each month. Things like sewing, knitting, and computer classes teach skills to empower the people.
Saul says, “While taking care of people medically and socially, we introduce the Gospel at every opportunity we get. All would be wasted if we work only on the physical aspect of the person and neglect the spiritual.”
One person who Saul’s organization helps is a converted Muslim. Once she became a Christian, Martha’s* family had someone assault her in hopes she would become pregnant and then desire to raise her child in her family’s faith. Martha stood firm in her newfound faith, further enraging her family, causing them to mistreat her. A Christian in her village befriended Martha and introduced her to Saul’s ministry. She shares, “I was welcomed and treated like a human. They have helped me start my own business and educate my child.”
Saul says, “No wonder Paul confidently stated that nothing, including reproach, would be able to separate him from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). The same is true for us all. Let us confidently continue to walk and work with Him, including carrying out His Great Commission.”
*Names changed for protection of privacy.
**The reporting period for Open Doors International is October 2021 to September 2022.
Statistics from Christianity Today and Open Doors.