Burnt church in  Maiduguri, Nigeria Burnt church in Maiduguri, Nigeria  (Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need)

Over 50,000 Christians killed in Nigeria by Islamist extremists

According to the report “Martyred Christians in Nigeria” issued by Intersociety, over the past 14 years at least 52,250 Nigerian Christians have been brutally murdered at the hands of Islamist militants.

By Lisa Zengarini

Over 50,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since the outbreak of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in 2009, a newly-released report published by a Nigerian non-governmental organization has revealed.

The report, titled “Martyred Christians in Nigeria”, has been published by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), a Nigerian-based research and investigative rights group, which has been monitoring and investigating religious persecution and other forms of religious violence by State and non-State actors across Nigeria  since 2010.

52,250 Nigerian Christians murdered since 2009

According to its findings, over the past 14 years at least 52,250 Nigerian Christians have been brutally murdered at the hands of Islamist militants, more than 30,000 of whom during the eight-year presidency of former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, often criticized during his tenure for not doing enough to combat growing insecurity in the country.  

18,000 churches set on fire

In the same period 18,000 Christian churches and 2,200 Christian schools were set ablaze. Approximately 34,000 moderate Muslims also died in Islamist attacks.

The outlook for 2023 does not seem any better, with over 1,000 Christians killed since the beginning of the year.

Within the same period, at least 707 Christians were kidnapped, out of which the Northern Nigerian Niger State recorded more than 200 abductions, including 14 March 2023 abduction of over 100 Christians in Adunu (Paikoro). At least 101 anti-Christian abductions were recorded in Kaduna while other affected States include Katsina, Taraba, Edo, Ogun, Nassarawa, Kwara, Kogi, Borno, Yobe and Adawama Bauchi, Enugu, Imo, Kebbi, Gombe, Bayelsa and Cross River.

Boko Haram and Fulani Muslim herders 

Christians risk their lives not only at the hands of Boko Haram,  but also of ethnic Fulani Muslim herders who have joined Islamist extremist groups.

The attacks have led to mass forcible displacement. About 5 million Christians have been displaced and forced into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps within Nigeria and refugee camps at regional and sub-regional borders, the Intersociety report says.

Open Doors' and ACN's reports

The Intersociety report confirms that Nigeria has become one of the most dangerous places to live for Christians in Africa.

This was also stated in the 2023 Watch List released in January by Open Doors,  the interdenominational foundation that supports persecuted Christians in the world. According to that report, Nigeria accounts for 89% of Christians martyred worldwide. 

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)  has also given voice to the thousands of Christians persecuted for their faith in Nigeria. In its latest annual report the Pontifical Foundation supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, reported that more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians were murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.

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17 April 2023, 15:21