In its World Watch List 2024, Open Doors said Nigeria maintained its position as the nation with the highest number of people killed because of their Christian faith.

Open Doors, a Christian advocacy group, said that Christians in Nigeria — particularly in the Muslim-majority north — continue to live under immense pressure and are terrorized with devastating impunity by Islamic militants and armed bandits.

“More believers are killed for their faith in Nigeria each year, than everywhere else in the world combined,” the report said. “The attacks are often brutal in nature and can involve destruction of properties, abductions for ransom, sexual violence and death. Believers are stripped of their livelihoods and driven from their homes, leaving a trail of grief and trauma.”

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According to Open Doors, violence by Islamic extremist groups such as Fulani militants, Boko Haram and ISWAP (Islamic State in West African Province) increased during the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, putting Nigeria at the epicenter of targeted violence against the church.

The government’s failure to protect Christians and punish perpetrators only strengthened the militants’ influence, the report found.

“The rise of Islamic militancy occurs against the backdrop of climate change, environmental degradation and population growth, pushing Fulani herdsmen, whose origins are pastoral and Islamic and their cattle southwards,” Open Doors said. “This is creating tensions with other farmers, including Christians. Among the Fulani are militants who have turned disputes into something far more sinister, with attacks being driven by ethnic and religious ties.”

Christians face persecution in the north

The West African nation of 226 million inhabitants is divided along ethnic and religious lines. While nearly 50% of Nigeria’s population is Christian, the other half is Muslim.

Christians living under shariah law in northern Nigeria also face discrimination and oppression as second-class citizens. Converts from Islam often experience rejection from their own families and pressure to renounce their new faith.

Against this backdrop, a respected member of the church in Nigeria has laid blame on the country’s powerful military, whose actions he claims gave the Islamic groups and Fulani tribesmen room to roam freely and visit mayhem on Christian believers.

The Rev. Timothy Daluk, who serves as chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the country’s Plateau State, recently denounced the arson attacks and killings targeting Christians.

“I am here to report the situation happening in Mangu Local Government for the whole world to understand. What is happening in Mangu at this particular point in time, the military are the ones sending our people away for the militia to burn their houses,” Daluk said in a message that went viral on social media.

He added, “Enough is enough. We have cried, but the government is not listening.”

The comments came after at least 140 Christians were massacred over the Christmas holiday to close out 2023. Attacks on 26 villages in Plateau State began on Dec. 23, led by Fulani Muslim herdsman against Christian farming communities.

Some of the locals said it took upwards of 12 hours before security agencies responded to their call for help.

‘Come to our rescue’

Daluk said residents of Mangu do not want the Nigerian forces in the embattled region, saying, “We don’t want the military in Mangu Local Government. They should pack their loads and go. We don’t want them. … They have been paid a price to carry out their duty.”

In his appeal for intervention of the international community in the killings in Mangu, Daluk said, “I am calling on the world to understand that this thing should stop, and people should come to our rescue to save us. If not, that is an evil plan for them to destroy Mangu Local Government. Because the governor is from here, and we are not going to allow it.”

Speaking to reporters in January, the African country’s director of defense media operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, said, “DHQ is in the process of reaching out to him to come and substantiate the claims.”

“It is not unusual for emotions to cloud people’s judgment when they have been confronted with a very traumatizing experience,” Buba added.

Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director Isa Sanusi said the Nigerian government has failed to take “tangible action” to protect lives in the region.

“Sometimes they claim to make arrests, but there is no proof they have done so,” he said in a message posted on X. “The brazen failure of the authorities to protect the people of Nigeria is gradually becoming the norm.”

Others agreed.

The genocide in Nigeria “should be the concern of every other human being, everybody, man and woman, of goodwill,” Catholic Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of the diocese of Makurdi, in Benue State, told CatholicVote in an interview last month.

But Open Doors remains optimistic in its projections for the near future.

“Last year saw the installation of a new president, with Bola Ahmed Tinubu replacing Muhammadu Buhari, and it’s unclear what this might mean for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria,” the report noted.

Despite both Buhari and Tinubu being Muslim, the report added the new president “has carried out a major reshuffle, which provides a better representative balance of the two faiths. … This might cause a positive shift toward acknowledging the extent of the human rights violations being perpetrated against Christians, and lead to more effective intervention by security forces to protect Christians. However, proof of this has yet to be provided.”

Tom Osanjo is a Nairobi-based correspondent for He is a former parliamentary reporter and has covered sports, politics and more for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.