Welcome to the Republic of Niger, the largest country in West Africa. A landlocked country, 80 percent of the land is desert where the heat can be so intense that rain frequently vaporizes before it reaches the ground. The life expectancy at birth in Niger is 41 years. Most of the population is under 17 years old. Twelve percent of all infants die before their first birthday.
By faith, we see a church holy and mature in Christ, transforming Nigerien society and beyond.
Current SIM Ministry
Niger is the largest country in West Africa. It is predominantly Muslim and is 80% desert. At least 4,000 years ago, Niger was home to a highly developed civilization. Islam took root among the country’s leaders a thousand years ago but became the religion of the rural people only in the 19th century. Despite constitutional religious freedom, pressures exist to make the nation more Islamic. The 2005 United Nations Human Development Index rates Niger as the poorest country in the world. Among SIM Niger’s partners are 120 congregations with more than 6,000 adherents. Though Niger is predominantly Muslim, surprising openness to the Gospel exists among some sectors of the population. Thanks to famine relief efforts, many Fulani have opened to the Gospel. There is also encouragement in the outreach to the Tamajaq with a vision to reach the Arab community as well.
SIM’s vision is expressed through a variety of ministries in partnership with the Nigerien church and other mission organizations: Bible translation and literacy, evangelistic outreach, theological education, discipleship, worship ministries, general education teacher training, and media publication, as well as various medical and community development initiatives.
Sahel Academy provides education for MKs from many missions including SIM. SIMAIR provides air service for missionary travel, supplies, and medical emergencies.
SIM’s Partner Church
SIM entered Niger in 1924. The churches planted by SIM missionaries formed L’Eglise Evangélique de la République du Niger (EERN). In 1989, EERN suffered a division into three groups: EERN, UEEPN (Union des Eglises Evangéliques Protestantes du Niger) and EESN (Eglise Evangélique Salama du Niger). Other independent churches include the EEI (International Evangelical Church) and the ACEN (Christian Evangelical Assembly of Niger). All three groups are recognized by the government as independent church organizations, and have a combined total of 100 congregations, 65 pastors and evangelists, and over 6,000 adherents.
Niger has 15 people groups in which less than 20% of the population has any affiliation with a Christian church. Although Niger is predominantly Muslim, there is a surprising openness—albeit general unresponsiveness—to the Christian message. Many Muslims are willing to listen. Radio Station ELWA and the new Radio Espoir in Niger’s capital, Niamey, have helped prepare the hearts of many nomadic Tamajaq and Fulani. Some Fulani, feeling the effects of famine, are opening up to the message of Jesus due to the response of Christians who brought relief to them. Encouraging progress is also being made among the Tamajaq.
History of Christianity
Christianity first touched Niger in the seventh century when Berber Christians migrated south after being driven from North Africa by emerging Islam. Isolated from other Christians, the faith gradually weakened and Christianity disappeared from Niger until the twentieth century.Protestant missionaries were the first to arrive in Niger. In 1924, SIM began work at Zinder and now serves in 15 locations. Out of this work emerged L’Eglise Evangélique de la République du Niger (EERN).
In 1929 African Christian Missions, Inc. (now known as Evangelical Baptist Mission) opened work. The Union des Eglises Evangéliques Baptists (UEEB), started by this mission, today comprises four churches, a missionary branch supporting three missionaries, and approximately 700 members.
Roman Catholicism spread from Benin to Niger in 1931. The Roman Catholic Church currently has over 15,000 affiliates, although approximately 95% of these are expatriates.
In the past decades, other Protestant missions have arrived. These include Baptist International Mission, Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist, Fellowship of Independent Missions (now called Fellowship International Mission), YWAM (now called JEMED—Jeunesse en Mission et Dévéloppement), Horizons (includes Frontiers), Calvary Ministries, Portes Ouvertes, Sahara Desert Mission and SIL.
The church in Niger is small and faces tremendous pressure from Islam. Nevertheless, national believers have a growing vision for church planting and evangelism. Challenges include a shortage of pastors, educated Christian women, and mature, well-trained leadership.