Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. –Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)
For many of us, Christmas Eve is a time for family dinners, finishing up gift-wrapping, attending a candlelight service at church, or driving around town to enjoy the Christmas lights.
Probably few of us expect to be brutally slaughtered. But that’s what happened to about 160 Christian believers in Plateau State in Central Nigeria on Christmas Eve 2023. Moreover, it’s estimated over 300 were injured, eight churches were burned down, and some 15,000 are now displaced after militants made sneak attacks that began on the evening of December 24 and went into the early hours of Christmas Day.
Although many associate Christian martyrdom with the days of the Roman Empire, it’s estimated more followers of Jesus have lost their lives for their faith in the past 100 years than ever before in history. Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous country, is now #6 on a World Watch List of extreme persecution. According to Open Doors, “More Christians are killed in Nigeria for their faith than all the other countries of the world combined.” And whereas violence used to be mainly in the north part of the country, it’s been spreading south.
Adding to the tragedy, not only are secular media and governments largely silent about this scourge, but few believers and churches here address it either.
The Bible is clear. For those of us blessed to live in peace and prosperity, we are not to bury our heads in the sand but be aware, pray, and do what we can. As paraphrased in the NLT, “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”
Take the next step: Pray for persecuted believers, and get informed about their plights.
Go deeper: Read more about the attacks and these brave Nigerian Christians here.