Nigeria, with about 137 million people, has been a modern missionary success story. According to Operation World, a daily missions prayer guide, the share of evangelical Christians in the country has grown from 5.7 percent in 1960 to 23.5 percent in 2000. Anglicans, Baptists, the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), and other groups all report impressive growth.

But religious clashes have killed an estimated 10,000-plus Christians and Muslims since 1999. Christians here say violence has led to another casualty: the country's robust missions and evangelistic outreach. They say the violence has led to the killing and displacement of Nigerian missionaries and has severely hampered church financial support of their ministries. It has also scarred their spirits.

"Whenever Christians are attacked, their homes are burned, churches [are] destroyed, they are displaced, and they become refugees," Nahor Samaila, director of the Evangelical Missionary Society of ECWA, told CT. "So you cannot talk about the advancement of the gospel in this type of situation."

Ministry is difficult where fear is rampant and forgiveness does not come easily. "We had 12 missionary couples in [the] Yelwa area" in Plateau state, Samaila says. "But because of the religious crises we were forced to relocate out of the area. The reason is because our missionaries are in the remotest parts of the rural areas. Our fear is that Muslim attackers could attack them."

Such fear is justified.

Violent Mission Field

Three major geographic regions have emerged as a result of colonialism—the largely Muslim north, the Christian-majority (but still closely divided) central region, and the strongly Christian south. A patchwork quilt of dozens of ethnic groups and competition ...

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