Hostility towards Christians, especially in the northern Sharia states, is spread by radical Islamic teaching and practice.


World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
14 77/100
Leader Population
President Muhammadu Buhari 192 million | 89 million Christians
Main Religion Government
Islam, Christianity Federal republic
WWL Rank in 2017 Persecution Level
12 Very High Persecution

While the Nigerian army has had some success in tackling the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, most of the recorded killings have been carried out by Hausa-Fulani herdsmen, a radical Islamic tribe that frequently targets Christian communities. In 12 of the northern states, Sharia (Islamic law) has been implemented, and Christians in these states face discrimination and restrictions in accessing community resources, such as clean water, health clinics and higher education.


A girl sleeps peacefully in her school in Chibok, a place where she is able to learn, to laugh with her friends, to feel safe. Then one night, she is roughly woken by a man who points a gun at her. She is forced into a truck, along with many of her friends. It's dark, but she feels the truck move. She doesn't know where she is going, or if she will ever return.

The Chibok girls made the headlines when they were abducted in April 2014, but sadly their story is not an isolated one. Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group who took the Chibok girls, are responsible for thousands of deaths and abductions, mainly of Christians. One woman who was kidnapped but managed to escape said: "Out of fear I have converted to Islam. Will Christ accept me back?"

Christians also face violent attack by Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen. Their attacks are no less devastating - they have killed thousands of Christians and destroyed or targeted hundreds of churches. And yet, several states are planning to give these herdsmen grazing fields out of the land of indigenous Christian communities.In parts of northern Nigeria, where 12 states have adopted Islamic law, Christians have taken to dressing like Muslims to avoid being lynched. Christian girls are in very real danger of being abducted and forced to marry. Even when not being directly attacked, Christians in this region are discriminated against; their communities are often left without basic facilities such as clean water and health clinics, and access to secondary school or higher education is frequently denied to Christians.

There is concern that Christian youths will be tempted to retaliate against their Muslim neighbours, creating a cycle of violence. Yet many Christians are choosing to forgive and to continue to reach out to their communities. Damaris Atsen, whose husband was murdered in anti-Christian riots, says, "I have forgiven and God will help me to love everybody. It is not easy, but it is God that will give us the grace to love."


Open Doors partners with the local church to strengthen and equip persecuted believers in northern Nigeria through the following activities:

  • Training to strengthen believers facing persecution
  • Helping children to receive a Christian education
  • Providing care and discipleship training for new believers
  • Servant leadership and theological training for church leaders
  • Community development projects
  • Legal assistance
  • Emergency relief and trauma counselling.


Esther finds joy in the midst of sadness

18th Jun 2018

Found in Stories

As the government of Nigeria continues its battle against the Islamic radical Boko Haram in the Northeast,

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Help me to keep praying

13th Apr 2018

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Esther Joseph is saddened as the days grow longer, and she waits for her daughter. "My daughter has not yet come back. I need your…

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Leah: A heroine of faith

06th Apr 2018

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Leah pays the high price for her faith in Christ and forgoes freedom from Boko Haram captivity.

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Rebecca: Bringing hope to widows in Nigeria

25th May 2017

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I awoke one night and saw that the streets were brightly lit by the many churches that had been set ablaze. In the weeks that…

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  • For the protection of Nigerian Christians, particularly for women who are in danger of being abducted and forced to marry Muslim men
  • For comfort for the thousands of Nigerian Christians displaced in targeted violence. Pray for wisdom for Open Doors partners as they serve these communities
  • For provision for Christians in northern states who are often denied access to vital resources.


  • Pray for those that are suffering by reading the latest prayer requests from persecuted Christians around the world.
  • Advocate for persecuted Christians by signing the Hope for Middle East Petition.
  • Consider donating your resources to Open Doors.