DAMASAK, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) - Six Christian charity workers were attacked on July 19 as their convoy traveled near the town of Damasak in the northeastern state of Borno in Nigeria.
One of the drivers was killed while one staff member, two drivers and three health care workers were kidnapped. All work for an NGO called Action Against Hunger (ACF), a charity that aims to end life-threatening hunger and malnutrition across nearly 50 countries.
Islamist insurgents released a video of the six Christian aid workers begging for their lives after being kidnapped by a jihadist group.
In the video, a woman wearing a blue hijab says, "My name is Grace, I work with Action Against Hunger an NGO in Borno state. My base is Damasak. We went to work on Thursday the 18th of July, 2019 outside Damasak."
"On our way to going back to Damasak, by Kinnari Chamba ward in Damasak we were caught by this army called the Khalifa. They brought us here and actually we don't know where we are," she continues.
Holding back her tears, she said they all have families and feared being killed, calling on the ACF to do something about their freedom.
She begged the Nigerian government to act on their release to avoid being killed as in the cases of some "ladies caught" who "were told to ask to be released but because Nigeria did not act they were killed."
"I also want to call on Nigeria that we are Nigerians; we are also working for Nigeria. I beg that the Nigerian government should help please, and please," she said.
Some reports assert Grace referenced Leah Sharibu, a Christian schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram, and Alice Ngaddah, a Christian mother of two kidnapped in a separate attack.
Sharibu was taken from the Government Girls' Science and Technical College in Dapchi in 2018. Her classmates were released; however, because she refused to renounce her faith, Leah remained captive. Ngaddah, a mother of two and UNICEF worker, was taken captive in 2018 and "is now our slave," the Boko Haram group said.
Hauwa Liman and Saifura Khorsa were murdered by the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP) in 2018. Last October, the militants killed midwife Liman, 24, after her employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, refused to pay a ransom. A month earlier, Boko Haram murdered Khorsa, another Red Cross midwife.
This is heartbreaking ������ indeed— Abubakar Mohd Kareto (@amkareto) July 24, 2019
They were kidnapped by Boko Haram 5 days ago around Damasak in Borno State. They work for an NGO called "Action Against Hunger"@AsoRock @MBuhari @ProfOsinbajo @ACF_Nigeria please rescue them alive ��������������
��: TheCable pic.twitter.com/kPckVLxfBH
Boko Haram, which means "non-Islamic education is a sin," is believed to be responsible for this recent attack.
The footage of the abductees, according to The Punch, authenticated by AFP (Agence France-Presse) on Thursday, was released through the same channel as previous videos from the IS-affiliated jihadists. The six hostages are believed to be held in the ISWAP enclave on the shores of Lake Chad in the far north of Nigeria.
The ACF issued an update on the situation on July 25:
A video released on Wednesday, July 24 in the evening shows the female Action Against Hunger staff member alongside five companions (drivers and health workers engaged in a humanitarian program run by Action Against Hunger in Damasak region, Borno State) apparently in good health condition.
Action Against Hunger strongly requests that our staff member and her companions be released.
They are humanitarians and health workers and they chose to dedicate their lives to support the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria. They were only in pursuit of solidarity, humanity and neutrality.
The ACF pointed out that the abduction "fully contradicts International Humanitarian Law and internationally recognized standards for the protection of humanitarian workers and organizations."
Open Doors, an international organization seeking to raise awareness and encourage prayer for the worldwide persecuted Church, reports that 12 states in northern Nigeria enforce Sharia (Islamic) law.
In these states, according to Open Doors, Christians are pressured not to wear a cross or carry a Bible. Christians are treated as second-class citizens with individuals from Muslim backgrounds facing persecution from their own families.
Attacks from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen against Christian farmers have left many dead and displaced. Christian homes and churches have also been burned to the ground.
Open Doors USA's 2019 World Watch List rates Nigeria's score for violence and persecution against Christians as "very high" and ranks Nigeria as the 12th worst in the world for Christian persecution.
As many as 280 people in Christian communities in northern and middle Nigeria have reportedly been killed in attacks from extremists from February through mid-March 2019. Thousands have been reported killed by Hausa-Fulani militants and Boko Haram in 2018.
President Donald Trump took Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to task in 2018 for not doing more to stem the violence.
In a joint press conference at the White House, he said: "We are deeply concerned by religious violence in Nigeria including the burning of churches and the killing and persecution of Christians. It's a horrible story."
President Trump said: "We encourage Nigeria and the federal state and local leaders to do everything in their power to immediately secure the affected communities and to protect innocent civilians of all faiths including Muslims and including Christians."
Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, chief executive of the religious freedom group CSW-Nigeria, argues that the question is around a lack of will, not a lack of resources, to stop the conflict.
"I think that if the Nigerian military wanted to end this they could easily end this," Nmadu says, referring to broader violence against Christians in Nigeria.