“There is an emergency” in Sub-Saharan Africa, region where the most Christians are killed because of their faith

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, the scale of Islamic violence against civilians, and specifically Christians, is alarming. According to the 2024 report from the NGO Portes Ouvertes, un in five persecuted Christians live in Africa.

For more than thirty years, the Portes Ouvertes organization has published its World Index of Persecution of Christians. The 2024 report released yesterday, Thursday, January 17, shows an unprecedented growth rate in persecution. It reveals that 365 million Christians are currently facing persecution or discrimination worldwide, representing one in seven Christians.

Among the points of alert highlighted by this new edition, Portes Ouvertes is sounding the alarm regarding the situation of Christians in Sub-Sharian Africa. A region where the rise of jihadism rhymes with the increase in the persecution of Christians. The organization says that one in five persecuted Christians lives in Africa. 

4 Christians killed in Nigeria

Raids against villages, attacks on churches, rapes, kidnapping and murders... The report indicates in particular that of 4 Christians killed around the world, the majority (998) were killed in Nigeria. For the tenth year in a row, this is the country where Christians are murdered because of their faith. 

A figure down slightly compared to the previous year, "due to the elections, a period during which exceptional security measures were taken", underlines Guillaume Guennec, director of advocacy who adds that since then, "attacks have resumed more beautiful". He also specifies that their figures are “below reality”. 

"It's urgent"

According to Frans Veerman, director of Open Doors' international research team, "without an effective response to this challenge, Christians will gradually be crushed by pressure and forced to flee their homes and villages." He believes that if governments do not respond, Christian communities could die out. 

"Governments in the region must take concrete and strong actions to counter the growing influence of jihadist groups and to protect the most vulnerable. Without this, once-thriving Christian communities risk dying out..."

Illia Djadi, the NGO's expert analyst for West Africa, also said during the press conference, "there is an emergency in the Sahel and in Africa in general!" He also focused on the situation in Burkina Faso, a country which a few years earlier was a model of religious tolerance. In 2023, we are witnessing an escalation of violence, with at least 31 Christians killed, and dozens of churches destroyed. 

Another African country highlighted by the NGO, the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly the region of North Kivu where the situation of Christians is increasingly difficult due to the presence of armed groups.

United against violence

Faced with this dramatic situation, Portes Ouvertes joined an awareness campaign launched in 2023 for a period of four years, entitled “Africa, united against violence”. Because as the NGO reminds us in the introduction to its annual report, “this index is not an inventory, it is a prerequisite for action”.

Indeed, it is not simply a question of compiling statistics, but above all of highlighting the suffering of men and women who pay a high price for their faith. It is also, as Portes Ouvertes points out, about alerting and encouraging action “to help make this world more just and respectful”. 

Camille Westphal Perrier

Image credit: Shutterstock / James Dalrymple

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