International Christian aid group Open Doors spotlighted the generous and forgiving prayers of Nigerian pastors on this Easter holiday. They prayed for peace in a land that rarely knows it and asked for the salvation of enemies in a region that has no shortage of them.
The three pastors Open Doors interviewed “all live in volatile areas of Nigeria, where following Jesus comes at a high price.” All refuse to leave their imperiled home villages to seek safety elsewhere.
One of the three, Pastor Andrew, has survived two attacks by the savage Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. The second attack wiped out everything in his village except six houses. Another, Reverend Phillip, ministers to Christian converts from Islam, which means he and his flock are marked for death.
The third, Pastor Dauda, prayed that peace might someday come to all of Nigeria.
“Nigeria is bleeding,” he said. “We pray the Lord will step in for us in this nation, and as well for believers that have been persecuted, that the Lord would step in for them wherever they are.”
“Our joy is many souls who have come to Jesus Christ, because we believe he is God that came to save humanity, and we believe that His salvation is for those who even perpetrated this evil,” he said, referring to the constant attacks by criminal gangs and extremists.
“We should be strong to endure all the persecution to the very end, just as Jesus Christ was victorious,” Pastor Andrew said.
Reverend Phillip asked the world to pray for Nigerians plagued by “banditry and killing,” everywhere from rural villages to city streets.
“Many people have been killed. We are asking for the redemption of God during this dark period. Please pray for our country, Nigeria,” he said.
Open Doors ranks Nigerians as among the most persecuted Christian populations in the world, as they face “brutally violent” attacks from Boko Haram, its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and the somewhat less well-known but arguably far more dangerous Fulani, a Muslim tribe whose jihadis are known for murdering Christian missionaries and wiping out entire villages.
In the March 2022 update for its World Watch List of persecution, Open Doors said Nigeria “accounted for nearly 80 percent of Christian deaths worldwide” and calculated “a Christian is killed for their faith every two hours.”
Despite these horrifying statistics, the Biden State Department actually removed Nigeria from its list of “countries of particular concern” for religious persecution in November. No explanation for the move was given, leaving stunned human rights groups to speculate the Biden team hoped to cajole more counter-terrorism cooperation from the Nigerian government.
The bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said it was “appalled” by Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s decision to delist Nigeria, urging the State Department to “reconsider its designations based on facts presented in its own reporting.”
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