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Is Nigeria Country With Most Christians Killed For Their Faith?

Nnamdi Kanu in his house in Umuahia in 2017. Photo: Stefan Heunis/AFP 4 mins read

‘Kunle Adebajo

Claim: Nigeria is ranked the number one country according to the population of people killed because they are Christians.

There is no available evidence to support this claim.

Full text

In a tweet shared on Friday, November 20, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, claimed that Nigeria is ranked the worst country in the world in terms of the number of Christians killed because of their religion.

“Nigeria ranks No. 1 in the world in the number of Christians killed for their faith. The Buhari regime has failed to protect innocent Christians. Will @StateIRF take action and live up to its mission of promoting religious freedom around the world?” he wrote.

State IRF refers to the Office of International Religious Freedom, a unit under the United States government.

Kanu’s tweet included a link to an opinion article published by The Jerusalem Post in October. It had over 4,500 likes and had been shared over 5,500 times as of 9 pm on Thursday, November 26.

Screenshot of Kanu’s tweet taken on November 26, 2020

Verification

To start with, the article published by The Jerusalem Post and titled Christians Targeted in Nigeria: Why the World Should Care does not mention any ranking on the targeted killing of Christians in Nigeria.

Here is the part most closely related to the IPOB leader’s claim:

If what’s happening with Boko Haram isn’t bad enough, increasingly the Nigerian government’s nonchalant approach to dealing with the terrorists have [sic] inspired young people like Michael to embrace their tactics and extremism. 

As a result thousands-upon-thousands of Christians in Nigeria have had their lives and property destroyed by militant Fulani tribesmen in the central part of the country on a new “jihad.”

The article neither specifies how many have been killed nor concludes that a large number of Nigerians of the Christian faith who were killed were victims because of their faith. In fact, it says:

While the perpetrators of violence in the Middle Belt are almost exclusively Fulani, the vast majority of Fulani are not perpetrators. Indeed, many Fulani Muslims have spoken out against them. And other Fulani have also been killed by Islamist terrorists throughout the country.

While HumAngle has found no publicly available ranking of countries according to the “number of Christians killed for their faith,” what appears closest to this is a study released by Open Doors USA. Open Doors is non-profit that describes itself as a “community of Christians who come together to support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries.”

The 2020 World Watch List (WWL) released by the group ranks “the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith,” using “data from field workers and external experts.”

According to the list, Nigeria is the 12th most dangerous country in the world for a person to be a Christian. This is after North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, India, and Syria.

The country’s profile on page 22 does not provide any specifics about the number of deaths. It only says, “Christians in the northern region and in the Middle Belt suffer from violence perpetrated by Islamic extremist groups such as Hausa/Fulani militant herdsmen and Boko Haram.” 

“Such violence often results in loss of life, physical injury, as well as loss of property. As a result of the violence, Christians are also being dispossessed of their land and means of livelihood—and Christians with a Muslim background also face rejection from their own families,” it concludes.

The persecution of Christians in the report is divided into two parts: Violence and Pressure. Though violence against Christians was placed highly at 99.9 percent for Nigeria, Pakistan, which is ranked the fifth-worst country, is given the same evaluation under that category.

In a report published in August, HumAngle established that often-quoted figures on anti-Christian genocide in Nigeria were grossly inaccurate and unreliable.

Dr Kabir Adamu, a security consultant and Managing Director of Beacon Consulting, had told this paper that no organisation had been able to gather sufficient data to analyse victims of insecurity on the basis of faith.

“It would not be scientific to come to that kind of conclusion. To come to that kind of conclusion, it means you have identified, documented all the victims and, through your analysis, you are able to know their religion, and I doubt anyone has been able to do that,” he said.

HumAngle reached out to Kanu for the source of his claim shared on Twitter but was yet to receive a response at the time of writing.

Conclusion

There is no evidence available to support the claim. A widely cited 2020 report by a US-based non-profit on the persecution of Christians, however, ranks Nigeria the 12th worst country in the world for Christians to live.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with HumAngle to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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