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Religious Freedom Internationally
 
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Nigeria

Nigeria is situated in Western Africa between Benin and Cameroon, and borders the Gulf of Guinea. 50% of the population is Muslim, 40% is Christian and 10% identifies with local faiths. More than 250 ethnic groups coexist in Nigeria. The largest ethnic group comprises 29% of the population.

Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1960. After 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999 and a peaceful transition to a civilian government took place. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim and the South is primarily Christian.

Religious Freedom

The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. The Constitution also permits people to change their religion, openly speak about their faith and practice their beliefs. Although there is no official state religion, Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Islamic Countries, which effectively makes it a Muslim state.

The religious majority of each state is usually supported by the government of that region. Nigerian states have the option of using Shari’a law and courts in Muslim communities. In some states, it is illegal to proselytize during a public rally in order to avoid conflict among ethnic groups. Permits are required for a religious group to build a place of worship or hold an outdoor public gathering in Nigeria.

The public education system requires that all students receive instruction about Christianity or Islam; however, in many Northern states, Christian education classes are not offered and in Southern states, Muslim education classes are not always provided.

International Treaties Signed by Nigeria

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Canada-Nigeria Diplomatic Relations

Information about Canada’s relationship with Nigeria
Canadian High Commission in Nigeria
Canadian representatives in Nigeria
Nigeria’s representatives in Canada

Prayer

For prayer requests, see the alerts, or the general page of prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Related Links

General information about Nigeria
Information about human rights in Nigeria
Information about the persecuted Church in Nigeria (from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

Related EFC Religious Liberty Commission Alerts

Note: Alerts are in reverse chronological order, beginning with most recent.

NIGERIA: Bombings Target Christians – Nigerian Army Assists in Some Attacks Eye Witnesses Say

August 30, 2011

On July 30 and 31 Muslim initiated violence broke out against Christians in Jos, Nigeria leaving five dead and injuring 12. Five days later two bombs exploded near churches in Jos. One near a Baptist Church that had previously been attacked by Muslim extremists, and the other near two churches closely situated to one another, according to police reports. At that time, fears were intensifying with the anticipation of more attacks by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility. Read more here.

War in Iraq Places Increased Strain on Christian-Muslim Relationship in Nigeria

::3/19/03

(World Evangelical Alliance, EFC Religious Liberty Commission, Barnabas Fund, Wall Street Journal)

Christians are at risk around the world as war with Iraq looms closer. Abbas Ahmed, a spokesman for Cairo's Al-Azhar University (one of the Muslim world's prestigious centres of Islamic scholarship), said that any attack on Iraq would in fact "be a strike on Islam." In a statement on March 10, the University's Islamic Research Academy said, "According to Islamic law, if the enemy steps on Muslims' land, jihad becomes a duty on every male and female Muslim." According to the World Evangelical Alliance, it is very probable that the American-led bombardment and invasion of Iraq will cause Muslim anger to erupt, leading to a violent backlash against Christians in a number of vulnerable areas.

War on Iraq will increase tension in the already extremely strained relationship between Muslims and Christians in this country. On February 28, 100 people were killed and over 500 wounded in a Muslim revenge attack on a Christian village in western Nigeria. In November 2002, religious riots ignited by a newspaper article led to the death of an estimated 1,000 people and the destruction of some 125 churches in the city of Kaduna. Muslim militants from neighbouring Chad have played a major role in recent violence. At the same time, Muslim political leaders in the north have systematically sought to marginalize Christians in their region. Both Muslim and Christian leaders express frustration over the violence. "The nation is sitting on a religious time bomb that can explode any moment with devastating consequences," said Kaduna state governor Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi.

 

Pray:

• Pray that the Spirit of God would enable Christians in frightening situations to keep their eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Pray that God would send his own armies of angels and defenders to protect his children.

• Pray for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East. Pray that they would be protected in the event of any conflict.

• Pray for Christians in southern Sudan who may be facing an imminent invasion by government forces.

• Pray for Christians in countries with recent Muslim-Christian tensions. Pray that they would have God's grace and strength to stand in the face of provocations. Pray that God would prevent illegal weapons from coming into tense zones and into the hands of militants.

Nigeria: Religiously-Motivated Riots Results in Death and Destruction

::11/29/02

(Source: BBC News, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Barnabus Fund)

During the past week in Nigeria over 200 people have been killed in religiously-motivated riots. Violence erupted on Wednesday, November 20 when five busloads of Muslim youths arrived in the religiously-diverse city of Kaduna to protest a recent newspaper article. The article, written in response to Muslim objections to the Miss World pageant, suggested that if Mohammed had been alive today, he probably would have liked to take one of the Miss World contestants as his wife. Muslim protesters upset about the article attacked pedestrians and churches, destroying at least four churches and killing many. The rioting spread to other areas of the country-- including the traditionally peaceful capital, Abuja. By the end of the week, Christian youth had begun retaliating. In all, twenty churches and eight mosques were seriously damaged or completely destroyed, over 200 people were killed and 11,000 individuals lost their homes.

Many consider the timing of the riots suspicious. The riots broke out five days after the publication of the article mentioning Mohammed, well after the newspaper had published a front-page retraction and the journalist had issued an apology. The vice-governor of Zamfara State, known for its hard-line Sharia law, issued a fatawa calling for the death of the journalist who wrote the offending story.

Twelve of Nigeria’s thirty-six states have now implemented Sharia Law. During the past 14 months, over 1,000 Christians have died due to Muslim-Christian conflict. Last September a three-day conflict between Muslims and Christians resulted in over 160 deaths.

 

Pray:

• Pray for those who lost loved ones, homes or places of worship in the violence. Pray that God would comfort all those who lost loved ones.

• Pray that the Christian community would be united in seeking God's way of responding to attacks.

• Pray for the youth (both Muslim and Christian) who participated in the violence. Pray that they would recognize the damage they have caused and repent. Pray that they would refuse to be part of any further violence. Pray that God would discredit the Muslim leaders who organized the initial protests.

• Pray that Nigerian leaders, particularly President Obasanjo (a Christian), will have wisdom in leading the country and in promoting peace between the Muslim and Christian people of Nigeria.

Nigeria: Sharia Law Adopted in 36 States as Religious Conflict Escalates

::10/3/02

(Source: Compass Direct News, Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

The religious conflict in Northern Nigeria continues to escalate. On September 11th a bomb, said to be set off by Islamic militants, caused moderate damages to a Church of Christ Cathedral in Jos, no one was hurt. Conflict erupted between Muslims and Christians last September, and has since taken the lives of over one thousand Christians. The Church of Christ has suffered immensely, five of their ministers have been killed and the damages to the Church are estimated at $10 million. The provincial government of Kano, in Northern Nigeria, has decided to rid itself of over half its Christian Churches, claiming that there are too many Christians in the area.

Today, twelve of Nigeria’s thirty-six states have either fully adopted or are in the process of adopting full Sharia law. Since the implementation of Islamic state law, over twenty churches have been destroyed. Christians in the northern province Zamfara are fleeing in fear of the Islamic government who are stockpiling weapons. These Christians, as well as others, fear that there will be a Jihad waged against them.

 

Pray:

• Pray that the Nigerian people would be kept safe and that these conflicts do not spark a civil war.

• Pray that the federal government would have the boldness to speak out against these attacks.

• Pray that the Christians who are displaced would find comfort and shelter.

Conflict between Muslims and Christians results in the deaths of over 160 people

::9/17/01

(Source: Globe & Mail, National Post, Compass Direct, World Evangelical Fellowship, Amnesty International, Middle East Concern, Religion Today)

As we all watched with horror last week as terrorists attacked in the U.S., we pray for wisdom for world leaders as they respond to this crisis. We encourage you to pray for the following situations of war and persecution which may be affected by the current crisis as well.

Reports from the central Nigerian city of Jos say more than 160 people have been killed in three days of violence between Muslims and Christians. An official of the International Red Cross told the BBC that 165 bodies had collected at various hospitals in Jos. He said that in addition, more than 900 had been injured as rival gangs rampaged through the city of four million people. These may not be the final figures, as there are still many bodies on the streets and people unaccounted for. Because Jos had been a city of religious moderation and civility, known as "the home of peace and unity," this large-scale violence would seem to indicate a badly deteriorating situation for Muslim-Christian relations in Nigeria.

Pray:

• Pray for an end to the violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Pray for a just peace and religious freedom.

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