Open Doors USA President David Curry isn't afraid to label what's happening to Nigerian Christians right now "genocide."
Four thousand Christians died last year at the hands of radical Islamists, whether Boko Haram, Islamic State or Fulani herdsmen. Thousands of others have fled their ancestral homes in fear of their lives.
"It's not just dislocation," Curry says. "It's attack of villages, murdering the people, thousands of them every year."
Because of the God they serve.
"They've been targeted, not because of territorial concerns or strategic politics, but because they have claimed the name of Jesus as their own," Curry says. "They had a transformational experience with Jesus, and for that, they have become a target of extremist groups."
According to Open Doors, Nigeria's score for violence has stayed as high as possible, primarily due to the increased attacks on Christian communities by militant Fulani herdsmen. These attacks claimed the lives of hundreds of believers during the reporting period, and villages and churches burned to the ground. Additionally, in parts of northern Nigeria, Christians are treated as second-class citizens. Christians from Muslim backgrounds face persecution from their own families.
Nigeria ranks No. 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and 99% of the persecution happens through violence.
And Christians in the West really don't seem to care. Why?
"It's an indictment, to be sure, of the nature of the American church right now," Curry says. "And it's somewhat understandable because we are so distracted and so inundated with bad news that you either become a little bit numb, or you never see it among all the other bad news out there."
Curry lays the blame at the culture surrounding Christian leaders.
"I think that's where it starts," Curry says. "It's this self-focus on perpetuating the megachurch mentality. The 'super pastor' mentality has kept a grip on the agenda of Sunday morning for too long. And I just feel like when we're not talking about [persecution] in the pulpit, it's not making it into the minds and hearts of the people. So I view it like this: Every church, every Sunday should be talking about, thinking about, praying about in some way, their brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted for their faith.
"And I say that not because it's the issue of the moment, but because it's what I call a universal calling," Curry says. "There's some things with Jesus in the Scripture that say we all need to do this, and one of those in my mind is when everyone is called to pray for our brothers and sisters in faith who are in prison for the name of Jesus as if [we are praying] for our own families."
Talk about conviction!
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