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Please offer up a Christmas prayer for Nigeria’s endangered Christians

A Christian family mourn three relatives killed by armed Fulani herdsmen in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria, in December 2011.
A Christian family mourn three relatives killed by armed Fulani herdsmen in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria, in December 2011. | Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

In 2022, much of the world’s attention has been focused on the horrific warfare in Ukraine, along with Iran’s courageous demonstrators, who are being violently assaulted for rejecting their country’s radically brutal regime. However, while these shocking abuses have carried on, the West African country of Nigeria continues to experience what has often been described as a “silent slaughter.” In recent years, tens of thousands of Christian believers have been killed in relentless assaults on their villages, homes, churches, and families.

And now, at this very moment, with Christmas approaching, there is urgent need for our prayers. During church worship services, celebrations, and reunions of families and friends, magnified dangers of violent attacks are ever-increasing. It’s time for us to seek God’s protection over Nigeria’s vulnerable Christian believers.

In the midst of increasing anarchy in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous and prosperous country — Christians constantly suffer the most outrageous violence imaginable. The persistent killing, kidnapping, rape, and maiming of believers has continued to escalate until today. A November 2022 report from The Christian Post paints a horrifying portrait of the ongoing abductions and murders of Christian women, men, and children:

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Islamic jihadist groups in Nigeria are responsible for killing at least 4,000 Christians and abducting more than 2,300 other Christians in the first 10 months of this year alone, according to a report released this week by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law. The Fulani herdsmen and Islamic terror groups allied with it were responsible for 2,650 of the 4,020 Christian deaths between January and October…

The other terror groups, including Islamic State in West Africa Province, Boko Haram and Ansaru, accounted for 450 Christian deaths and the Fulani (Zamfara) bandits and their splinter groups were responsible for 370 Christian deaths, it added. Fulani herdsmen and Fulani (Zamfara) bandits and other armed jihadist groups that are “Nigerian government friendly” abducted more than 2,315 Christians…

The shocking reality is that for years this abuse and violence has occurred with virtually no response or defense from either federal or local Nigerian authorities. State police and the Nigerian military appear to turn a blind eye to kidnappings, torched villages, and massacre after massacre. In fact, it has often been reported by local witnesses that some Nigerian authorities have actually participated in the attacks.

In a December 20 report, we learned that at least 40 people were killed and an unknown number abducted by armed members of the Fulani ethnic group in the southern part of Kaduna state, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). As the same time, in a spate of attacks on the Kamuru community on December 12 and 13, four men were killed and an unknown number of people injured or abducted. Then, on the night of December 18, 36 people were killed and many more injured in a night attacks elsewhere. Some villages were burned to the ground, and nearby homes and properties were destroyed.

The Speaker of Kaura LGA, Atuk Stephen, said the attacks had been “consistent and multi-dimensional.” He called on the federal government and security agencies to address the violence, saying that their efforts so far were “not seen or felt.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide President Mervyn Thomas expressed his alarm. “These renewed attacks are occurring in the run up to the Christmas holidays, raising concerns of a possible campaign to disrupt the festive season in this predominantly Christian area. We urge the authorities to act now to ensure that security measures are in place for communities celebrating Christmas in their homes and churches, and that communities that have already been targeted do not suffer repeated terrorist raids.”

According to Sean Nelson, legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian.” Nelson said that “we know that thousands of Christians in Nigeria are slaughtered every year for their faith, and people are silenced, imprisoned, and face deadly mob violence based on blasphemy accusations.”

At Family Research Council, we have continued to report on the atrocities against Nigeria’s Christians. In our recent book, Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution, we included a detailed account of the abuses there. This included the tragic story of prisoner of conscience Leah Sharibu, who was taken into captivity in 2018 in the Dapchi school kidnapping as a 14-year-old child. To this day, Leah has not been released because of her refusal to deny her Christian faith.

Will you pray for Nigeria today and during the coming holiday festivities? We ask you to remember Nigeria’s believers, who are at the highest possible risk, as their radical Islamist assailants target their sacred Christmas worship. Please pray that our heartfelt petitions for these faithful Nigerian sisters and brothers will provide them with the miraculous shield of God’s powerful hand.

Originally published at The Washington Stand. 

Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom and Coalitions Coordinator at Family Research Council, where she brings a lengthy record of advocating for persecuted believers and addressing current-day faith and freedom issues.

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