convert them to Islam, BosNewsLife monitored Tuesday, March 20.
The Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM) Australia, which is supporting Christians persecuted for their faith, told BosNewsLife it had urged supporters to "pray for the protection of Christians in Nigeria" after reports that the abduction of "teenage Christian boys and girls" is rising in areas that include majority-Muslim Sokoto state.
Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency investigating reports of persecution, quoted unidentified Christian leaders as saying that the kidnappings had become a "common phenomenon" in Sokoto state.
It cited the case of 13-year-old Victor Udo Usen, a member of the Christ Apostolic Church in Sokoto, who went missing in November last year. His mother Esther Udo Usen reportedly failed in her attempt to rescue him in February after a tip from a young Christian girl who raced to Usens' home in the Mabera area of Sokoto city, the state's capital.
FAILED RESCUE ATTEMPT
She was apparently unable however to free him from the house where her son had been held incommunicado for six months. "I quickly held his hands and dragged him along with me towards our [nearby] house," Compass Direct News quoted Esther Udo Usen as saying.
"But within a twinkle of an eye, I heard shouts of "Allahu Akbar! or 'God is great.' I was shocked as I saw a large number of Muslims rushing towards us," she added. The mob apparently surrounded them and snatched her son away from her.
Before she could send her husband, members of the mob allegedly told her that her son was "now a Muslim" and that she and her husband were no longer his parents. "They abducted him in November last year, and I only saw him today," she added. "How can someone force my son into his religion?"
Victor's father, Udo Usen, reportedly said he was unable to react to a distress call from his wife in time to safe his son. "I thought, if I force myself into the house of that Muslim to get my son, I will not only be placing the lives of my family at risk but also creating room for them to attack other Christians in Sokoto," Usen was quoted as saying.
LITTLE HOPE LEFT
Usen and his pastor reported the abduction to other Christian leaders and local police, but they have little hope the son will return soon, Compass Direct News said.
"The police told us that they cannot do anything at the moment until the Sultan of Sokoto, the leader of Muslims in Nigeria, returns from his trip. They have held this boy for six months without our consent. They have forced him into Islam. How can they do this to a 13-year-old child?," Usen told the news agency.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they are worried that the kidnapping trend "is on the increase, creating tensions between Muslims and Christians." They claim the Nigerian government knows of the abductions "but has done nothing" to protect Christian children from religious predators. No exact numbers of kidnapped children were immediately available.
Local officials have sometimes reacted to complains about Christian persecution, amid international pressure, but churches seem to suggest that these are exceptions. VOM Australia said however that it hopes the "church in Nigeria continues to grow and be strengthened," despite the apparent hardships. About half of Nigeria's over 130 million strong population is Muslim, 40 percent Christian and about 10 percent follows indigenous beliefs, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With reports from Nigeria).