The news from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is confusing.
The most prominent stories report horrific attacks on churches which kill dozens of people. For example, yesterday during Easter celebration services in the city of Kaduna, a suicide car-bomb detonated in the street near two churches. Both churches were badly damaged and at least 38 people were killed. Fortunately, the driver was turned back from the churches’ compound or the damage could have been even worse. No one has claimed responsibility, but it is assumed that this terror is linked to the Muslim affiliated group Boko Haram which has claimed responsibility for other attacks on churches.
Simultaneously, there are at least two trends in Nigeria that are having an even greater impact on the country and the world. This news receives less media coverage.
First, there is the issue of the growing church. According to the most recent edition of Operation World, the Anglican-affiliated Church of Nigeria has “grown from 900,000 in 1960 to perhaps nearly 20 million in 2010.” There are several other denominations and church networks that are growing and also claim millions of adherents. Churches are being planted at an amazing pace; so many that it is difficult to find mature leaders to mentor all the young Christians.
Second, there is the issue of the growing economy. Nigeria is Africa’s the second largest economy after South Africa. Nigeria’s GDP growth rate is 7.2% and will probably surpass South Africa’s economy by 2025. Much of this economic growth is fueled by Nigeria’s vast oil reserves, but oil is not the whole picture. Nigeria’s entrepreneurs are gaining competence, confidence, and enthusiasm. If Nigeria’s government continues its path toward stable democracy and if the people continue to take steps to battle terrorism and corruption, Nigeria will become an economic force in the global market place within a few decades.
Most Westerners consider Nigeria a lost cause that will always be needy. The high profile terror attacks by the Boko Haram and stories of corruption and political instability reinforce these perceptions. However, there is another story that needs to be told. As the gospel gains influence and as Nigerian entrepreneurs build respectable businesses, a new future is being written. There is hope for Nigeria!