What’s persecution like in the rest of the world and especially for Nigerian believers? David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, wants American Christians to understand their Christian brothers around the globe and what they are experiencing.
“It’s a different world,” Curry said in a recent interview on “The Pure Flix Podcast,” noting the intensity of the persecution in some countries. “What it can do for us, though, is to inform us and we can learn a lot from these people in these countries in our own walk. As such, I think they treasure Scripture more.”
He continued, “They believe in worship together and church more — to be able to get together and talk about Jesus in safety and to let your kids go to church and learn are the kind of things that we so devalue in some ways and we can learn a lot from them.”
Curry explained that the fate of Christians in northern Nigeria is especially dire. Nigeria has an estimated 91 million Christians. There has been a rise in Christian persecution in the last decade, with an average of 10 Christians a day being killed for their faith. The number can range as high as 500 or more per month.
“There are these Islamic terrorist groups with safe haven in the north and the government has done little to nothing to root them out,” he said. “That makes the north of Nigeria one of the most dangerous places for Christians.”
There has been an attack against Christian churches or groups at least once every two weeks, Curry said. One of the most recent occurred on May 18 where Islamic extremists attacked a choir practice; 17 members are still being held captive.
Since last year Christians are being attacked with rocket-launchers and AK-47s in an escalation of attacks by Muslim herdsmen in Nigeria.
On one Saturday, during a raid on the home of the Archbishop of Jos, Dr Ben Kwashi, a neighbor was shot through the head, leaving a widow and children.
While church leaders in the country are warning of the “ethnic cleansing” of Christians, describing the narrative of a clash between farmers and Fulani Muslim herdsmen as “false propaganda”, the British Government has said that it is “not aware of evidence to support the view that religion is driving this conflict”.
In one attack 238 people were killed by “Fulani herder militia” in Plateau State over the course of just one weekend while 120 more were killed as they returned from the funeral of an elderly member of the Church of Christ in Nations.
The regular attacks have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Nigerian Christians on a vast movement to safer regions. Families are split apart and children are left orphans.
“We don’t know who is alive and who is not. The women are either forced into marriage to jihadists — under Shariah law there is often nothing they can do to get those individuals back — they are ransomed to raise money for terrorist activity or they are killed,” Curry said. There are a number of things that can happen and none of them are good. This is the kind of thing that happens in the north of Nigeria.”
Despite the attacks and Christian persecution, Curry said Nigerian Christians are living out their faith in amazing and inspiring ways.
“Their life is stripped down to the basics and they decide what is the most important. And it comes down to their spiritual life and that piece you get from scripture and wisdom to help you live every day, even in these really hard circumstances, especially in these really hard circumstances,” he said. “I think it’s really critical. You can find these folks that are held captive for a long time and you see their faith walk grow despite [the fact that] they have been stripped of every comfort.”