70 Christians killed at the hands of Boko Haram in Nigeria
Further attacks against Christians in Nigeria have been reported, bringing the total number killed in the past year to an estimated 900.
According to Release International, 34 Christians were murdered in Borno State in the north-east last month, and raiders killed an additional 37 in the central Plateau State on 26 November.
Church leaders believe the attacks in the north were carried out directly by Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, while those in central Nigeria were carried out under their direction.
Boko Haram, which was recently officially labelled a 'Foreign Terrorist Organisation' by the US Government, has forced 8,000 Christians to flee from their communities, and those who remain are unable to worship in public. Its leadership has declared its intent to cleanse the country of Christians, eradicate Nigerian democracy, and replace it with an Islamic state guided by Sharia law.
The Hudson Institute estimates that at least 900 Christians have died in the past year at the hands of the organisation, which has ties to Al-Qaeda and whose name translates as "Western education is sacrilege".
One woman, Florence, witnessed the murder of her son, her cousin and her 13 year old nephew after extremists broke into their home in the middle of the night.
"They forced themselves in," she recalls. "I saw about eight of them. At the time I was screaming, not knowing that they were all surrounding us. I saw somebody there standing with a gun, so there was no way for us."
The men warned Florence that if Christian women in Nigeria continued to refuse to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men, they would also be killed.
Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the globe, has launched a Christmas appeal, 'Help the Wounded', to help victims of the violence. They are asking for funds to support the provision of emergency medical treatment and trauma-healing workshops.
Release is also campaigning for the Nigerian Government to enforce greater protection for its citizens.
Amid the ongoing attacks, the organisation is calling for an increase in prayer for Nigerian Christians, "that they will stand firm, know God's presence and his peace, and forgive those who are trying to kill them".
"We are appealing, we are pleading with you people, please help us...We are appealing to you come to our aid. Pray for us. All we need is prayer," Florence said.