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Nigeria (MNN) – In mid-October, four British missionaries were abducted by a Nigerian cult in the southern part of the country. A day later, one of those missionaries, Ian Squires, was dead. His companions, who were released a few weeks later, say he was shot after leading the group in singing “Amazing Grace.”

David Curry of Open Doors USA explains that Squires had been doing medical work for the locals. According to Daily Mail, Squires was particularly passionate about providing eye care for people who otherwise wouldn’t have it. He was even credited with creating a machine that enabled them to make glasses in rural areas.

Curry says, “It’s just another example of what’s happening in Nigeria, although in a different vein. Nigeria is a country that’s divided into—you’ve got the southern portion that’s largely Christian, but you have tribal factions in the north. You have these extremists from Boko Haram. It’s a country that is being pulled in a lot of directions.”

Curry believes what is taking place in Nigeria is really part of a regional issue and that it has has the ability to impact the entire continent.

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors Ministries)

“We see Africa as the prime theater of persecution in the next ten years because the population of Christians is so high—the young demographic group—and there’s so much corruption and violence there that Christians are just being attacked in massive numbers.

“More people have died in Nigeria and in that belt across the continent of Africa where persecution is high than has happened in Iraq and Syria at the hands of ISIS. That’s how significant this is,” Curry says.

November was a particularly violent month in Nigeria where a child suicide bombing killed over 50 people in a mosque attack, and a herder-farmer conflict killed at least 30 people in the northern region.

Integrating prayer for the persecuted into our daily lives

Nigeria is no. 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List of countries where Christians face the worst persecution. With Nigeria’s propensity for violence, Curry says we need to make Nigeria a priority in our prayers and our conversations.

And again, as we enter the Christmas season, Curry urges the Church to stand behind the Persecuted Church in fervent prayer.

“Christmas is such a dangerous time for most Christians around the world—in the Middle East, across Africa, in countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, anywhere where Christians are going to celebrate the birth of Christ, so we need to be praying for them.”

He hopes that what’s taking place in places like Nigeria can grab the attention of the global Church.

“We are a particular people called by the name of Jesus. We are called in Scripture to care for, to pray for others who are in chains or persecuted for the name of Jesus, and we have not done it. We do it on an incidental basis if we hear about an episode. This needs to be integrated into every church, every small group, every person’s prayer life that you’re praying for what God is doing in Africa, in Nigeria, those imprisoned and hurt and attacked, because we’re family.”

With the resources of Open Doors and other ministries supporting the Persecuted Church, we can stay up to date on what is happening in the Church and learn how we can pray. Curry says when we learn the names and faces of the people involved, we begin to personally invest in their stories, and we understand the gravity of persecution.

“This missionary, Ian Squire, he was a real person. He’s a real human being who was giving his life to try to help these folks in the south of Nigeria, and he was kidnapped and killed for his faith.

“And there are many people like him in Nigeria who have names and faces and families. They’re not all British, most of them are Nigerian themselves but they love Jesus and they’re dying for their faith.”

Learn more about Open Doors here.

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