Nigeria (MNN) — Nigeria moved up to sixth place on the 2023 World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries with the worst Christian persecution. The previous year, Nigeria ranked in seventh place.
Greg Kelley, CEO of World Mission says, “We’ve seen increasing episodes [of persecution] in the last 10 years specifically,” Kelley says. “But it’s been this way for generations, to be honest with you. It just happens to be accelerating over the last 10 to 12 years.”
According to Open Doors USA, 5,621 Christians around the world were killed for their faith last year, and 90% were from Nigeria.
Since the rise of Boko Haram in 2009, over 45,000 Christians have been martyred in Nigeria for their faith.
These failures of religious freedom in Nigeria are getting a political spotlight as well. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently met with Rashad Hussain, the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
Hussain addressed Nigeria’s tolerance of religious persecution at the meeting, although there is no telling what kind of impact these discussions will actually have since Buhari’s term as president will be finished in just a few short weeks.
Meanwhile, World Mission has worked in Nigeria for the last 20 years, with an emphasis on reaching the northern part of the country with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
While southern Nigeria is dominantly Christian, the north is over 90% Muslim.
Kelley explains, “You have majority people groups such as the Hausa and the Fulani and the Kanuri who are these majority Muslim people groups that are literally pushing out Christianity. They’re targeting many churches. Many Christian-oriented nonprofit organizations have all fled and these areas are being run out [and] sacked, their villages are being attacked, people are being killed [and] kidnapped.
“There’s all kinds of chaos going on in the north and the objective of it all is to sort of dismantle Christianity from those northern areas.”
With the help of indigenous Christian leaders in Nigeria, World Mission distributes Treasures (solar-powered audio Bibles) to unreached people groups.
“It’s a pretty crazy thought to consider that as we resource and send a Treasure, we’re putting it into the hands of a man or a woman who literally is taking their life in their own hands. If they get caught with these, if it’s in the wrong community, they could lose their life.”
Despite the danger to Nigerian Christians spreading the Gospel in turbulent areas, Kelley says, “They do it excitedly. They do it with an exuberance that you just can’t imagine because they’re so determined to take the Gospel into these areas.”
It costs $50 to get one Treasure into the hands of someone in Nigeria. You can support World Mission by donating here!
Header photo courtesy of World Mission.