A Christian group is calling on Nigeria to do more to protect vulnerable Christian communities after a succession of reports all pointing to a growing kidnapping crisis in the country.
Release International said that Christians are regarded as "soft targets for abduction" by Islamist militants, including Boko Haram, Islamic State (West Africa Province) and radicalised Fulani extremists.
Christians communities in the north and Middle Belt have been especially affected.
"Through an epidemic of kidnapping and murder, terrorists are forcing Christians from their homes in an attempt to Islamise the north. And increasingly, they are turning their attention further south," said Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International.
The charity recently conducted a fact-finding visit to Nigeria where it met Christians who have been attacked in the north of the country.
One of them, Monday Ali, told Release that his home was attacked by Fulani militants while he was away. Tragically, they killed his parents and kidnapped his five brothers and sisters as well as 14 members of his extended family.
The kidnappers have demanded a ransom of either 20 million naira (over £20,000) or Kalashnikov assault rifles.
He was allowed to make a call to his sisters who told him that they are being held as sex slaves.
"My sisters said even if I could pay the ransom, they would never let them go," he said.
He is asking people to pray for their release.
"When I read the Bible, I am comforted. I can forgive, but it is very hard to forget what happened. Please pray that my sisters are released from captivity, so I can give God the glory," he said.
Earlier this month, Morning Star News reported the kidnap and murder of Nigerian pastor, Rev David Musa, despite his congregation paying a 1m naira (nearly £1,000) ransom for his release.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need reports that 5,200 Christians were kidnapped in Nigeria between January 2021 and June 2022, and that 23 clergy and church workers have been abducted or murdered so far this year.
Nigerian research group SBMIntel reports that 39 Catholic priests were killed in 2022.
A report released this year by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Freedom of Religion and Belief said that 90 per cent of global kidnappings targeting Christians were happening in Nigeria.
Mr Robinson said, "All these reports confirm that Nigeria has become the kidnap capital of the world – and Christians are being targeted in an attempt to drive them off their lands.
"Some of these attacks can be put down to banditry and lawlessness, others are the singling out of Christian leaders and their communities. Thousands of Christians have been killed or abducted in recent years. These moves are designed to drive Christians from their villages and create a climate of fear."
He added that "punitive ransom demands further impoverish Christian communities and undermine their will to remain in their lands".