For many of us, the approaching festive season is cause for excitement and celebration. But for Christians globally, Christmas brings acute risk of attack. This is certainly the case in Nigeria, where believers are experiencing escalating and targeted violence at the hands of extremist groups and bandits. Nigeria is number nine on the World Watch List of countries where it’s hardest to follow Jesus – but it has the highest violence. More Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world. Your prayers are desperately needed.
Following the deaths of several of its leaders, so-called Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) have sworn in replacements, and the new leaders are committed to attacking Christians in Nigeria and beyond. And they aren’t the only persecutors. In northern Nigeria – which is majority Muslim – the church is experiencing a high level of threat, with Christmas and New Year festivities likely to be targeted. Only this week, the church in Zamfara State, northern Nigeria, received a letter from a group of bandits demanding that they close churches or risk ‘ferocious’ attacks.
Heavenly Father, bring supernatural peace to fearful hearts in Nigeria as Christmas approaches. Thwart the plans of those intent on harming your people and protect all Christian gatherings over the festive period. Amen.
Christian families are carefully selected and targeted for abduction from schools, church services and while travelling, with perpetrators demanding overwhelming sums of money for their release. It’s a calculated strategy that’s led to the impoverishment of thousands of Christians, with families even forced to part with their homes to pay ransoms.
Lord God, provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of families devastated by such calculated acts of evil, and heal their trauma. Intervene to bring about the release of Christians held captive. Amen.
Many Christian families are losing enthusiasm for the gospel, and struggling with feelings of anger and resentment towards those who persecute them. This reflects how increasingly unbearable life is for many Christians in Nigeria, and how much they need your prayers to stand strong in their faith.
Lord Jesus, we can’t imagine how challenging life is for our family in Nigeria. Give Your children a fresh revelation of Your love and grace, and use this to strengthen them to stand firm despite persecution. Amen.
The activities of extremists across northern Nigeria have led to rising food prices. Many families are living in hunger and uncertainty. Large numbers have fled to internal displacement camps (IDPs), with families even being separated from each other.
Father, reunite families, provide for their needs, and enable Christians to return to their homes. Stabilise the economy through a reduction in food prices and opportunities to earn a living. Amen.
One of the expansion strategies used by Islamic extremists is the establishment of a propagation initiative called the Islamic Dawah Movement. This involves putting intense pressure on believers from Muslim backgrounds, targeting church leaders and their children for conversion, inciting Muslim youths to attack missionaries working among Muslims, and injecting fear into converts considering Christianity.
Lord Jesus, protect Christians targeted in this way, and give them continued boldness, fervency and strength in the face of intense pressure. Soften the hearts of those who persecute your people and lead them to You. Amen.
The centre where traumatised believers receive care – and which your support helps fund – is currently undergoing expansion to accommodate more people and ensure vital help is given to more believers affected by persecution. However, the area is experiencing threats by Islamic militants.
Father God, thank You for the wonderful work of this trauma centre. Strengthen, encourage and equip all those who serve there. Protect the centre, bless its development and increase its impact on the lives of your hurting people. Amen.
Nigeria has been removed from the US State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) regarding religious freedom, released in November. It was added last year ‘due to systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom’.
Its removal from the list has been met with widespread consternation. Frans Veerman, Managing Director of World Watch Research, said, “The situation in Nigeria has not improved and there is no clear reason why Nigeria should lose CPC status… There are several indications that Nigeria is heading towards a catastrophic situation.”
Lord Jesus, intervene to make those in power, both nationally and internationally, more acutely aware of the awful suffering facing Christians in Nigeria, and stir their hearts to do more to prevent this. Amen.
Discover more ways to pray for Christians in Nigeria and across the world with our range of prayer materials, including our latest Prayer Diary.
You can hear more about the situation facing Christians in Nigeria at the Christmas edition of Open Doors’ Prayer without Borders webinar at 8.15pm on 2 December. Join us as we pray for Christians in Nigeria and around the world who are facing particular pressure this Christmas season.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.