I recently read that out of all the Christians killed for their faith in 2021, 80% of those deaths took place in Nigeria.1 I was then surprised to see that Nigeria was taken off the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List,2 which tracks severe violations of religious freedom around the world. My heart broke, not only for the lives that were taken, but for my brothers and sisters around the world currently living in fear of religious persecution.
Hearing news like this often moves us to want to save those who are being oppressed for loving Jesus. However, it’s also in these moments when our efforts can feel most futile and hopeless. How can we possibly do anything to help believers in these nations when even their governments are unable or unwilling to end the violence?
As I reflected on this question, God reminded me that we do not have the power to end the persecution His people are facing on a daily basis around the world on our own. Only through God and His power will anything change or improve. When He invites us into this work, we must answer.
The body of Christ must come together and raise up champions that will continually bring awareness to the issues of injustice happening in Nigeria, Afghanistan, and many others around the world. It’s too easy for those of us in the West to read a headline and forget about it a day later, but that doesn’t change the fact that millions of lives are still in danger and deserve our attention.
We should also work toward prevention. I’ve seen how one government decision can close hundreds of churches overnight. We have to invest in prevention and advocacy for religious freedom in the hardest to reach countries in the world.
Above all, we must pray. Prayer is the most useful tool we have in moments of crisis. Prayer activates a process of intervention through the Holy Spirit in every nation, and it’s through prayer that the underground church around the world is growing. God is still doing something incredible in these countries, even when all we see are distressing headlines and statistics. Jesus gives His people hope in the midst of oppression.
Even if Nigeria, or any other country confronting religious persecution, isn’t at the top of the watch list, it should be at the top of our prayer list. I encourage you to take a moment to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution today.
1 “Why Are More Christians Killed in Nigeria than Anywhere Else?” Open Doors. January 20, 2022. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/nigeria-christians-world/.
2 “Countries of Particular Concern, Special Watch List Countries, Entities of Particular Concern.” U.S. Department of State. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.state.gov/countries-of-particular-concern-special-watch-list-countries-entities-of-particular-concern/.