The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a vast country of some 195 million people with more than 370 separate tribes and as many languages. The country is divided into three regions which are then subdivided into individual semi-autonymus states. Because of the size of the country, allegiance in these states is bounded more by historical ties of religion, tribe, and tradition rather than loyalty to the country.This gives the central government considerable problems in administration.
The northern region is mostly Muslim, the southern region is mostly Christian, and the central region is a mix of both Christian and Muslim. Mixed in with these there is also a lot of traditional African religion.
Although the country’s constitution upholds freedom of religion, over the last three decades there has been a rising tide of persecution of Christians by Islamic militants in line with similar happenings in many other countries across the world.
In Nigeria, in the last five years alone, it is estimated that some 6,000 Christians have been killed, and nearly 2 million people have fled their homes and villages and have become refugees, moving into the larger towns for safety. This persecution happens mostly in the northern region, but is also increasing in the middle region.
Along with the violence against the people, whole villages are pillaged and then burnt to the ground, including churches, and farms and crops are seized.The perpetrators of the terror are Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group who state openly that they want to establish an Islamic caliphate across many of the sub-saharan countries.
On top of this, there is the old universal conflict between cattle farmers and arable farmers. Here the Hausa-Fulani herdsmen, who are radical Muslims, are being driven southwards by the encroaching sands of the Sahara desert over their traditional grazing lands. They are very fierce, and see this not only as an opportunity to grab land for their cattle from the largely Christian farmers, but also to help their Boko Haram allies in their quest for an Islamic caliphate. There are also reports that any farmers who are Muslim are left alone.
While the government army has had a bit of success in tackling Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen seem to be able to commit violence at will.
There is also the continuing fear of abduction, particularly for Christian women and young girls, who are then forced to covert to Islam and marry their captors.
On top of this the Corona Virus pandemic is causing added difficulties, especially to those who have had to flee their homes, businesses and land.
• Thank God for the Christian Church in Nigeria.
• Pray that he will give all Christians protection from the Corona virus, and strength and blessing to them in the face of the violent persecution.
• Pray for the government that it will act with decisiveness, wisdom and fairness in dealing with this difficult situation.
• Pray for protection from abduction, especially women and children who then suffer forced conversion and marriage.
• Pray for the safe return of those abducted, and their acceptance by their families.
• Pray for all Christians who have had to flee their homes and become refugees, that they will be able to find new homes in safety and peace.
• Pray for Christians to show forgiveness to those who persecute them.