Christian Today | Ayo Adedoyin | April 30, 2020
Ninety-one million Christians live in Nigeria. They make up around 46 per cent of the total population of 196 million. There are a similar number of Muslims in Nigeria – over 90 million.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, the majority of Christians live in the south of the country, and their religious freedom is respected. But in the north of Nigeria and the ‘Middle Belt’, where Christians are in the minority, they face horrific levels of persecution at the hands of Islamic extremists.
The militant group Boko Haram have abducted and killed those who refuse to conform to their extremist brand of Islam. Attacks by armed groups of Muslim Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians. Innocent and vulnerable girls such as Leah Sharibu, whose mother visited London in February to plead Boris Johnson for help, have spent their early adulthood as slaves and denied basic human rights, captive to a resurgent ISIS.
Twelve of the nineteen northern states are under Sharia (Islamic law), and Christians in these states face discrimination. The Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017 named Fulani militia as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world, with only Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Shabab being accounted deadlier.
As International Christian Concern shows, in the first three months of 2020, there have been 200 violent incidents involving terrorist or militant groups throughout Nigeria. These three brutal months also saw 766 deaths related to terror or militant activity, with Christians farmers making up the highest number of casualties after Boko Haram terrorists and military personnel are factored in.
Shockingly for a key Commonwealth member with so many Christians, Nigeria ranks twelfth on Open Doors World Watch List 2020 of the countries in which Christians are most persecuted. By comparison, Syria ranks eleventh and Saudi Arabia ranks thirteenth, with Iraq fifteenth and Egypt sixteenth. Nigeria is currently just one rank below ‘extreme’.