According to the report “Crushed but not Defeated”, published by Open Doors, the international Christian persecution charity, Christians in northern Nigeria face persistent violence.
The publication reports that between 9,000 to 11,500 Christians have been killed in the area over the last few decades; at least 1.3 million Christians are currently internally displaced or have been forced to move elsewhere; 13,000 churches have been destroyed or forced to close their doors; and thousands of businesses and properties of Christian citizens have been destroyed.
The report states that due to the ongoing violence, “the Christian presence has been virtually erased or has consistently decreased” in some areas of northern Nigeria; “while in other areas the number of faithful in churches has grown because of the Christians fleeing from violence and a number of Muslims who converted to Christianity”.
The report further warns, “in addition, social cohesion between Muslims and Christians has been endangered. Mutual trust has substantially disappeared; Christians and Muslims have become more and more separate, grouped in neighbourhoods, or specific rural areas”.
The report shows that although ethnicity, political conflict, and the struggle for resources are the known sources of violence in northern Nigeria, the causes of violence against Christians in this area vary considerably. Any number of religious, economic, and social causes may operate at the same time. According to the report, violence against Christians in northern Nigeria is often perpetuated in order to defend the identity and interests of Muslims there, and the position of Islam as a whole.
A large Christian presence nonetheless remains in place in northern Nigeria. But the Church in this region will have to try not to close in on itself and break away from society. Instead, it should do the opposite and open its doors – inspired by the Christian impulse to engage with society and work for justice, peace, and reconciliation by sharing Christian resources for the good of all.
In order for the Church to work towards the renewal of the Christian community and the improvement of the lives of people in northern Nigeria, the international community’s aid and support will be needed.