The Federal Republic of Nigeria in West Africa is a victim of its past. This vast country of some 191 million people is divided into three areas, which in turn are divided into separate states. Because of the size of the country, allegiance in the individual states is bounded more by historical ties of religion, tribe, and tradition, rather than nationality, which makes it difficult for the central government to govern every area.
The religion of the people is roughly split between Islam and Christianity on a 50/50 split. The south is mostly Christian, the north is mostly Muslim, and the middle is evenly shared.
The problems for Christians is mostly in the north. Over the last 30 years or so, as in many other areas of the world, militant Islamists, here under the banner of Boko Haram, have increasingly been attacking Christians. They have been backed by the old local tribal and religious leaders with the aim of displacing the Christians and their churches and setting up an Islamic Caliphate in the area.
Already 12 states in the north have adopted a form of Sharia law, which seems to have made Christians more liable to mob rule, and to discrimination over clean water, health and other basic facilities.
Because of this many have fled, often in a southerly direction, due to the increasing violence and destruction of villages, crops and churches.
On top of this, there is the old universal conflict between cattle farmers and arable farmers. In this case the Hausa-Fulani herdsmen, who are not only radical Muslims, but are also being forced south by the encroachment of the sands of the Sahara Desert on their traditional grazing grounds, thus trying to take over the land of the farmers who are mostly Christians.
While the government army has had some success in tackling Boko Haram, by far the greatest violence comes from the Fulani Herdsmen. There is also a continuing fear of abduction, particularly for Christian women and girls, who are then forced to marry their Muslim captors.
• Thank God for the Christian church in Nigeria, and pray that he will bless it and strengthen their faith in the face of this violent persecution.
• Pray for the government that it will act with strength, wisdom and fairness in dealing with this very difficult situation.
• Pray for protection for all Nigerian Christians, especially women and young girls who are in danger of abduction and forced marriage.
• Pray for the safe return of many of those who have been so abducted.
• Pray for all Christians in Nigeria who have had to flee their homes to escape persecution, that they will find the safety and help to restart their lives, and acceptance from their new neighbours.
• Pray for Christians to show God’s forgiveness to those who persecute them.