Nigeria is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a Christian. Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, armed robbers, and the Fulani herdsmen have all targeted Christians in recent years through acts of brutality, kidnapping, and murder.
One demographic that has been repeatedly targeted is young Christian women. Gideon Para-Mallam, Lausanne catalyst for leadership development and prominent Nigerian peacemaker, leads us in understanding the situation and in bringing the global church alongside in prayer on behalf of Nigeria.
Nigeria is a distressed nation right now. Christians have not had it easy for decades. Christians are targeted. Christians are persecuted. Christians are kidnapped in large numbers. Christians are killed.
We have the triumvirate of evil. Boko Haram basically is committed to declaring an Islamic caliphate over all of Nigeria. Christians have been driven from most of the northeast, the epic center of Boko Haram’s attacks.
The bandits are attacking and killing several Nigerians. Christians have not been spared. The Fulani herdsmen that operate in the heart of the middle belt of Nigeria, where Christians are heavily populated, have continued to unleash terror and attack on Christian communities.
School children are kidnapped. In April 2014 the Chibok girls—mostly Christians, literally almost all of them, although there were Muslims among them—were kidnapped. To date, about 113 Chibok girls are still in Boko Haram’s captivity, many of them forced to convert.
On the 19th of February, 2018, Dapchi girls were picked up, 110 of them. A month later nearly all of them were released except one young fourteen-year-old girl, Leah Sharibu, who chose not to deny her faith in Christ. Leah has remained in captivity. So also Alison Gada that was kidnapped two weeks later after Leah. These are young Christian girls along with several others—Grace Taku, Lillian Gyang Daniel, and several others in different camps held by Boko Haram on account of the Christian faith. Many of them have been forced to convert to Islam. That’s a very dangerous development right now.
It’s important that Christians around the world know the truth of what’s happening in Nigeria and to pray for Christians. Christians are not having it easy right now. The structural persecution, the systemic persecution, of course, but it’s also frontal attacks in which they are killed on a daily basis.
We cannot wait for governments to end the cycle of violence in Nigeria. We each have a role to play.
Deborah Samuel on the 12th of May was burned alive after being stoned on trumped-up charges of blasphemy. On the sixth of June 2022, nearly 50 Christians were killed in a Catholic church during worship, during their mass worship, again by gun men. This is a very terrible and disturbing situation.
Christians are asking, where are the rest of the other voices who care for justice—voices who care for the church to come around and support the church in Nigeria in prayer and to speak up in advocacy?
May I invite you to join where Christians would always begin: turning to God in prayer. God does answer the prayer of his people.
And so heavenly Father, we come before you in the name of Jesus to join our hearts and hands together across the world to pray for the terrible situation that Christians are going through in Nigeria. We ask in prayer, oh God, that you will comfort many of the families—the families of the Chibok girls, the family of Leah Sharibu, the family of Alison Gada, the family of Lillian Gyang Daniel, the family of Austin, many of these girls that have disappeared for years. Comfort them, encourage them.
We also ask, oh Father, that in your love and mercy, touch the hearts of Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen, the bandits that have kept many Christians in captivity. Touch their hearts that they may show compassion and release some of these girls who have become sex slaves. Thank you, Father, because you’re able to answer beyond what we have asked from you today. In Christ’s name, amen.