Editor’s Note: In this series, the ERLC will periodically provide country-specific highlights in order to assist believers to pray for our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church.
An introduction to Nigeria
Nigeria is located toward the west of the African continent, on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, positioned south of the Sahara desert and north of the Equator. As of 2015, Nigeria ranks as the world’s seventh most populated nation (China is number one, the United States is number three) and the most populous African nation. It’s a little more than twice the land area of California.
Nigeria is a diverse nation. Among the approximately 182 million people, there exist at least 11 different cultural or ethnic groups, and hundreds of languages and dialects. The dominant religions are Christian (predominantly in the south) and Islam (predominantly in the north).
Even a brief review of violence in Nigeria paints an absolutely staggering picture of persecution faced by Nigeria’s Christians and other religious minorities. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom lists Nigeria as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern (among the worst of the worst).
Religious identity and practice tend to be highly important to Nigerians, outranking commitments to nationality and ethnicity. However, factors for violent conflict are mixed with ethnic conflicts and economic disputes. This is a nation where the government is, by many indications, either unable or unwilling to prevent horrors at the hands of non-state actors, including affiliates of Boko Haram, an Islamic terror movement.
Nigeria is the location of the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 school girls. Some may recall the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on social media soon after the kidnapping, though no action has been taken to recover them. As Americans file their taxes this year, these girls will have been missing for two years. This atrocity rests in the background behind what are common attacks on churches, mosques and other civilian targets.
A call to prayer
For he will rescue the poor who cry out and the afflicted who have no helper. He will have pity on the poor and helpless and save the lives of the poor. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious in his sight. (From “A Prayer for the King,” Psalm 72:12-14 HCSB)
As Christians, we know that only the Kingdom of Christ will ultimately be free of oppression and violence. Nevertheless, we can call on sovereign authorities to seek, imperfectly, to deliver on their biblical role to seek justice. Such a call in Nigeria begins with prayer for many different people: persecuted Christians, other persecuted minorities including Muslims, government leaders, religious leaders of all faiths, and for the repentance and—ultimately, salvation—of the persecutors.
Here are some specific ways you can pray for the people of Nigeria:
- Pray for Christians in the midst of persecution and broad instability in their nation. Pray that pastors will lead well those in their care, preaching the hope of the gospel. Pray that Christians will boldly proclaim the gospel to people around them.
- Pray that leadership from across religious and ethnic identities would build relationships to help quell civilian violence and animosities.
- Pray for the return—and healing—of those kidnapped by terror groups. Pray for the families of the missing. Pray for the 1.5 million Nigerians who are displaced from their homes and communities as a result of violence.
- Pray for President Muhammadu Buhari and other government leadership, for reduction of corruption, and the ability to protect those under their care.
Resources for further research: