Though the attacks don’t always target Christians, believers are a particularly sought-after target by the extremists.
On Sunday, April 10th, Fulani militants attacked 10 communities in predominantly Christian Plateau State, in Nigeria’s northcentral region, killing more than 150 people. A week later, on April 19, at least 20 innocent people were killed or injured in an attack by ISWAP in a market in Iware. Reuters reports that ISWAP released a statement, saying, “Soldiers of the caliphate in Central Nigeria” had attacked “a gathering of infidel Christians.”
What’s critical to note is that on the 2022 World Watch List, Nigerian was ranked as the seventh most dangerous place for Christians to live around the globe, and is sadly the Christian murder capital of the world. In 2021, close to 6,000 Nigerian Christians were killed for their faith—that equates to one person martyred every two hours, because they follow Jesus as their Lord.
If this horrific trend in Nigeria continues as it has over the past five years, 2022 will overtake 2021 with even more believers killed for their faith. This “unholy handshake” is terrifying to Christians in the region. Islamic extremist groups are out to destroy anyone that disagrees with Islam, and that puts Christians at the top of the list.
A report written by three non-profit organizations that had recently visited the region warns: “The security situation [in northcentral Nigeria] is highly volatile … And religious tensions are expected to escalate with the run up to the 2023 [presidential] election.”
Meanwhile, the current increase in violence has caused more than 8.4 million Nigerians to flee their homes, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis, with half of those individuals now in desperate need of food. Some families have been displaced for five years or longer.
Islamic extremist groups, that now appear to be working together, are sending Nigeria into a spiral, and although the government is trying to cap the issue as much as possible, the stain of heartache and death continues to spread.
But as believers, we cannot lose hope! Because we know that God’s hand is still moving. And it’s in the darkness that His light is most seen. Burned churches and villages like Pastor Andrew’s are being rebuilt. The Word of God continues to be read, preached and sung by survivors of attacks. Shattered lives are being made whole again through long-term trauma care. People are still trusting Jesus with their hearts and lives for the first time.