Urgent prayer: Nigerian churches ‘listed for attack’

November 30, 2021 by Lindy Lowry in Persecution updates

Only a week after the U.S. State Department’s removal of Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” churches in northern Nigeria’s Zamfara State have received threatening letters demanding they make an impossible choice: Close their churches or risk “ferocious” attacks.

Open Doors West Africa team leader Suleiman M* requests urgent prayer for the Christian community targeted by the threats, calling the letter “extremely credible.” A church leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity said local officials were given a three-year ultimatum to close all churches in the state. But the letter indicates a more immediate threat, identifying specific churches which are “listed for attack between now and the end of December.”

The same letter was also copied to the police, Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and other security agencies. Zamfara police have directed Christians to intensify security in all places of worship, pastors’ houses and other Christian centers. Christian Association Nigeria (CAN) has also directed all churches to refrain from holding church activities after 5 pm for the next three months. A special squad has been created by the police to patrol and protect worshippers, especially on Sundays.

While no specific group has claimed responsibility for the threat, the church leader who spoke to Open Doors pointed to a Fulani group is behind the letter. However, no further details are available. To discover the source, Zamfara plain-clothes personnel have been deployed for intelligence gathering.

The threats follow the U.S. State Departments’ removal of Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” a designation for countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Open Doors USA calls this decision a “baffling error,”  citing that in Nigeria alone, an average of 10 Christians a day are killed for their faith.

At #9 on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List, Nigeria hosts the highest level of religious violence in the world. Zamfara state is one of 12 governed by Islamic law in northern Nigeria.

Suleiman M* noted the threat is a “very worrying” development.

“Over the past few weeks, our research team has warned about the increased likelihood of attacks against Christians over the Christmas season,” he said, adding that there is reason to believe that the threat will spread to other northwestern Nigerian states like Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Niger and Kano.

“Please help us by raising prayer for our brothers and sisters in these regions.”

*Name changed for security reasons

 

Open Doors calls for urgent prayers 

  • Please pray the government and security forces will work diligently to protect Christians and churches in Zamfara state and beyond.
  • Pray the Lord would thwart the plans of attack.
  • Pray that Christians in Zamfara and other northern states will respond in a Christ-honoring manner, and that their faith would be strengthened even in this persecution.
  • Pray for the discernment of local church leadership as they implement security measures and shepherd their congregations.
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