Nigeria has more Christian martyrs than any country in the world, and most of the religiously motivated killings of Christians in 2022 occurred there. Last year, of the 5,500 Christians killed because of their faith, 90% were Nigerians.
“Religious minorities in Nigeria are often denied the opportunity to live their faith freely because of the threats and attacks they face,” says the Crux newspaper. “It is particularly difficult for converted Christians, especially in the north of the country, because it is often their own friends and family, even entire communities, who reject them.
According to Megan Meador, communications manager for faith-based legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom International, the past two decades have seen a growing trend of religious intolerance in Nigeria, particularly in the north of the country. The country has gained notoriety as the worst persecutor of Christians in the world.
Of the 5,500 Christians killed last year because of their faith, 90% were Nigerians. According to a report released in April by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), an NGO based in eastern Nigeria, at least 52,250 people have been killed in the past 14 years in Nigeria. because they were Christians.
“Persecution comes from terrorists, machete-wielding militias, mob violence, and laws that implicitly encourage it, and from authorities who are indifferent to disorder and shrug their shoulders at these atrocities, allowing the perpetrators to get away with it, while punishing the victims,” says Mrs. Meador.
The Nigerian Constitution explicitly prohibits the federal and state governments from establishing a state religion, prohibits religious prejudice, and guarantees the right of individuals to freely choose, practice, propagate, or modify their faith.
Mrs. Meador admits that on its face, the constitution “provides strong protection for freedom of religion, equal to that provided by international law. But when states apply criminal Sharia law, it clearly goes beyond the Constitution and leads to tragic results.”
“There are cases where Christians have been brought before Sharia courts, without jurisdiction, and charged with offenses such as apostasy, which is not supposed to be a crime in Nigeria,” she said.
Ms. Meador said her organization supports religious freedom cases in Nigeria: Christians facing false accusations and discrimination, and religious minorities who want to speak out without fear of blasphemy laws and accusations.
“The Allied Lawyers we work with are dedicated and tireless advocates for the fundamental right to freedom of religion. We have also worked at the highest levels of governments and international institutions to make them aware of the extent of the persecution and to encourage them to do more.”
“We want all victims to have access to justice and greater changes in laws and policies to prevent Christians in Nigeria from being further victimized,” she added.
As the situation worsens, Mrs. Meador says it is time for demonstrations “in every corner of the world to protest what is happening to Christians in Nigeria, but too often there are none.”