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Why are more Christians killed in Nigeria than everywhere else combined?

For information about Orthodox Christianity in Nigeria, see here.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Nigeria from ChristianPersecution.com, see here.

“Why are more Christians killed in Nigeria than everywhere else combined?,” by John Pontifex, Catholic Herald, February 16, 2023:

“Allahu Akbar!” shouted a terrorist in Spain recently as he wounded a priest and killed a sacristan in broad daylight. God is great, certainly, but what made the deranged man think that God will reward acts of murder?

Such a question is all too often asked in Nigeria where persecution of priests and other Christians has now become so commonplace that when incidents like this happen, local media barely raise an eyebrow. Amid reports of widespread murders, mutilations, kidnappings and killings, politicians, bishops and media commentators have repeatedly warned of genocide, and yet Western politicians, civil leaders and activists all too often respond with indifference.

More Christians are killed in Nigeria than everywhere else combined. Fresh data from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)’s latest report Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2020-22 confirms this.

Over 7,600 Nigerian Christians were murdered between January 2021 and June 2022, according to one analysis. Two major incidents of Christian persecution in the country made international news during 2022, by no means exhaustive of the troubles facing Africa’s arguably most unstable state. First was the stoning to death and setting alight of 25-year-old Deborah Samuel in May, after she had shared “blasphemous” messages on WhatsApp. Second was the deadly attack on St Francis Xavier’s Church in Owo, Ondo State, during Mass on Pentecost Sunday, killing over 40 innocent civilians.

Nigeria has been a key focus of ACN charitable work for decades, long before the red flag was raised in recent years. On previous trips to Nigeria, I could already see the emerging trends that would set the nation on the path to destabilisation and disintegration. In the course of a few days in Nigeria’s Middle Belt I recall visiting up to a dozen churches and other Catholic institutes that had recently come under fire.

ACN is not alone in warning about Nigeria at this difficult time in her history. Open Doors’ new World Watch List 2023 estimates that in 2022, a shocking 5,014 (89 per cent) of the 5,621 Christians killed for their faith in Christ were killed in Nigeria. Around the world, about 30 Christian faithful are murdered every two days, and 27 of them are from Nigeria, notoriously earning the nation first place on Open Doors’ list of the most violent countries for Christians to live in this year. The top
four culprits (Nigeria, Pakistan, Cameroon and India) are all Commonwealth member states.

Nigeria is roughly half Christian and half Muslim, and with a total population of 200 million people, the opportunities for encounter between the two faiths are vast.

The activity of violent Islamist groups, rooted in the northern regions of the country and across the border with Cameroon and Chad, largely explains why so many Christians are mercilessly slaughtered each year.

State-sponsored persecution of Christians of the kind seen in China or North Korea is often slow, methodical and strategic. Non-state persecution of the kind exacted by Boko Haram
or Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) is quick, unpredictable and indiscriminate. Hundreds of Christians can be killed at once on the “killing fields” of Nigeria, whereas such a number are rarely arrested, let alone executed together, by authoritarian regimes.

The Islamist character of persecution in Nigeria certainly increases the number of Christians being killed without recourse to justice. Whereas authoritarian states in Asia apply similar pressure to members of various faiths who oppose the political regime du jour, Islamist groups like Boko Haram and ISWAP, aspiring to bring about a worldwide caliphate ruled by Sharia law, have a peculiar vendetta against Christians, whose visible defiance physically takes the form of churches and community centres, vulnerable to identification and destruction and far removed from the uninterested eyes of absent local soldiers or policemen. Such clear signs of a Christian presence are absent in countries such as Afghanistan, resulting in fewer public cases of direct violence against Christians, however unforgiving their living conditions may be….

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