By / Mar 27

Since February, more than 250 Christians have been murdered in Nigeria by either militant Fulani herdsmen or the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram. In both cases, the Nigerian government has been negligent in seeking to curtail the violence and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Fulani herdsmen are nomadic people who principally raise livestock. According to several reports, militant Fulani herders are attacking Christians farmers in what is known as Nigeria’s Middle Belt, a belt region in Nigeria that essentially separates the predominantly Muslim, northern region of Nigeria from the predominantly Christian, southern region of the country. As the Fulani herders encroach upon the farmers’ land, conflict occurs between the groups due to the scarcity of resources. Initially, the conflicts were considered “communal conflicts,” but the organization of the attacks by the Fulani herdsmen has pressed the conflict beyond land grabbing. Since 2016, some estimate that militant Fulani herders have killed more than 500 Christians in Nigeria.

In addition to the attacks from the Fulani herders, Nigerian Christians are also facing major persecution from Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group based in Northeast Nigeria. Since 2016, different international authorities have been claiming that Boko Haram was defeated. Sadly, while the terrorist group has been weakened, they are still active in several regions of Africa. In particular, they have been active in Nigeria in the last two months, targeting Christians in the Middle Belt.

Christians in the Middle Belt region, thus, are being attacked from both sides. As our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ face persecution, Christians must remember that though we are separated by thousands of miles, we are still all members of the Body of Christ. Nigerian Christians confess the same Lord, faith, and baptism. When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we should take notice and intercede on their behalf before God. Here are a few ways that we can pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ:

  1. We should pray for the Nigerian government to respond appropriately. Romans 13:1-7 teaches us that governments should bear the sword and punish evildoers. In this case, the Nigerian government should seek to preserve the freedom of the Christians in the Middle Belt and punish the militant Fulani and Boko Haram terrorist who are persecuting Christians. Furthermore, we should pray for effective humanitarian efforts that aim to alleviate the pressure that results from the scarcity of resources in the Middle Belt region.
  2. We should pray for Nigerian Christians to remain steadfast and immovable in their obedience to Christ. While suffering is never pleasant, God’s Word is clear: when Christians suffering unjustly for doing what is right and refusing to do evil, God often uses it to advance His Kingdom through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:8-17)
  3. Finally, we should pray for the militant Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. While many in the world would look at this prayer as misguided, wishful thinking, we must remember that Christ saved the apostle Paul while he was breathing threats against the church. While the Nigerian government might be negligent in its care of its citizens and the oppressors from the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram might seem to be gaining the upper hand, make no mistake about it: there is only one sovereign King in this world, and He has a reputation of saving rebels who aim to destroy His church.

May our brothers and sisters in Nigeria know that their brethren in the US and abroad are praying for them. May they remember that nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Moreover, may we behold their faithfulness as they face the threat of death, knowing that to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).

By / Jan 13

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.

Prayer points

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: