The persecution and martyrdom of Christians in Nigeria is at an all-time high so far this year. Between January 1 and July 18, 3,462 Christians have been murdered by Muslim jihadist groups, especially by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. Among those murdered were ten priests or pastors. This is only 68 fewer than the total for all of 2020. As well, 3,000 or more Christians, especially women and children, have been kidnapped and their whereabouts unknown. Estimates are that one out of every three kidnapped Christians are eventually killed.
Crux, a Catholic media outlet, reports that, “Breaking it down, the number means that 17 Christians a day were murdered for reasons related to their faith the first half of 2020, the second highest daily average since 2014, when over 5,000 Christian deaths were recorded in the hands of Boko Haram and jihadist Fulani herdsmen.”
The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, a research and investigative rights group, has been monitoring the persecution of Christians in Nigeria since 2010. They report that the security forces contribute to the problem in Nigeria because they rarely investigate violent crimes against Christians, and when they do, they often attribute such crimes to the Christians themselves. The Nigerian government has essentially abandoned victims of religious violence, so the jihadist groups are left to freely commit atrocities with impunity, at least in the Muslim-dominated north of the country.
In December, 2020, Nigeria was added to a list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) kept by the U. S. State Department that represent the worst persecutors of religion. Nigeria is the first secular democracy to be added to the list. Rev. Jonnie Moore, a member of the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said at the time, “Thousands of churches have been torched; children massacred; pastors beheaded; and homes and fields set ablaze by the tens of thousands, with people being targeted for their Christian faith alone.” Moore co-wrote a book with Rabbi Abraham Cooper on the atrocities in Nigeria entitled The Next Jihad: Stop the Christian Genocide in Africa. According to Moore and Cooper’s book, the goal of the jihadist Muslim groups is to annihilate the Christian population of northern Nigeria.
You can read a report on Nigeria by Aid to the Church in Need here.
We Western Christians often are justifiably concerned about the hostility toward Christianity found in the culture and in the halls of academia in Europe and the United States. Rarely, though, do we face the kind of persecution or violence that our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer daily in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Yet, while Christianity is in decline in the West, it is booming in Africa, and Christian communities in the Middle East and Asia are desperately holding their own, if sometimes forced underground. Our prayers are needed for these Christians, but so is our material support. If you can manage, Aid to the Church in Need is an organization that provides the kind of spiritual and material support these Christians rely on, so they are worthy of your donations.
PRAYER FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
O God of all the nations,
the One God who is and was and always will be,
in your providence you willed that your Church
be united to the suffering of your Son.
Look with mercy on your servants
who are persecuted for their faith in you.
Grant them perseverance and courage
to be worthy imitators of Christ.
Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations
to work for peace among all peoples.
May your Spirit open conversion
for those who contradict your will,
that we may live in harmony.
Give us the grace to be united in truth and freedom,
and to always seek your will in our lives.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Prayer composed by Archbishop William E. Lori, Supreme Chaplain
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.