For Victoria (pictured above), that pain began the day Boko Haram took her northern Nigerian village of Dzangola by surprise. She remembers how the militants were dressed in the uniforms of Nigerian soldiers. Before she and her husband could react, the fighters had surrounded them. The extremists took her husband and carried him to the roadside. Victoria cried out for mercy, but they pushed her aside and killed her husband. All she could do was lie by his side and weep.
Living without a husband in Nigeria comes with incredible challenges. “The pain of the heart cannot leave just like that,” she says. “Sometimes you just remember all the tragic events—and when things are not coming in for food or school fees, I feel pain.”.
Victoria isn’t the only one who has lost a husband in Nigeria because they were Christians—and she won’t be the last. In the West African nation—Africa’s most populous country—death for following Jesus is all-too-common. Every day in Nigeria, approximately four Christians die for their faith.
To put that into perspective, eight Christians a day worldwide were killed from November 2018 to November 2019. That means nearly half of the believers killed each day were Nigerian. For the year, 1,350 Christians died in the country—out of 2,983 worldwide.
And our World Watch Research Unit tells us those numbers are actually higher. Fewer numbers of Christians killed for their faith were reported due in part to Muslim Fulani militants who partly changed their persecution tactics. Instead of focusing on raiding Christians’ homesteads and communities like we’ve seen over the past few years, extremists put more emphasis on kidnappings and roadblock killings (militants set up a fake roadblock, stop a bus or vehicle and church religious IDs, separating Muslims from non-Muslims).
One pastor we met in Nigeria described the current environment in the northern region as a survival culture—“You lay your head down at night, not knowing if you’ll wake,” he says.