Christian Persecution and Conversion in Nigeria

Nigerian Christians have suffered a decade of murderous attacks from militant islamists, in particular the killer cult of Boko Haram.

At the same time, Christianity has been growing. The Pentecostal movement is flourishing in Nigeria with all night prayer services drawing thousands of worshipers.

The old saying is, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Present-day martyrs for Christ are no exception to that.

From PRI The World:

Under an open-air pavilion built to seat a million people, children sleep on mats spread out on the cobblestones while their parents enter their 6th consecutive hour of worship.

All-night prayer vigils are at the core of the country’s booming Pentecostal movement. Some churches draw worshippers in the hundreds of thousands.

At one church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Friday night vigils take place in what locals call an “auditorium.” It’s a covered pavilion the size of 87 football fields, and it’s not quite big enough. The church has already cleared ground for a bigger one.

In fact, it’s something of a pattern: the church’s old pavilion was demolished a few years back, and now vendors have set up shop on the old foundation.

Once the service starts, all these people selling, they’ll close their shops and go inside the auditorium to listen to the word of God,” says Wale Akande, a volunteer who stands by the auditorium, welcoming visitors to the Holy Ghost Service in a fluorescent green vest.

The pavilion here was built in 2000 to seat a million people. It’s basically a corrugated rooftop. The ground below is paved with cobblestones and lined with thousands of crude wooden benches and plastic chairs. Akande says attendance is down tonight because of rain; the pavilion is only a third full.


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  • FW Ken

    Catholics used to have all night prayer vigils, and may still. Of course, I don’t think they drew 300,000 worshippers, on a rainy night.

  • Steve

    It always sounded to me like the growth of Christians in Africa and Asia is mainly divided between Pentecostals and Catholics. Can anyone confirm this? It’s just that everything I read about growing Christian communities in these countries, they’re invariably Catholic, Pentecostal, or occasionally high church Anglicanism.

    • FW Ken

      The Anglicans – mostly evangelical, not high-church – have had explosive growth in Africa. Nigeria, in particular, has 18 million Anglicans (to 19 million Catholics) and sometimes inaugurates 10 new dioceses a year. My understanding is that other protestant churches have also seen growth in Africa.

      As a side note, and following on the theme of persecution. Uganda, which experienced true persecution of Christians, is 85% Christian. The blood of the martyrs, indeed.

  • Manny

    Good timing with this post Rebecca. I posted my letter exchange with Cardinal Dolan over Christian persecution on my blog, here: