A Nigerian priest who was kidnapped last week has been found dead.

Earlier in the week, the Catholic Church’s Agenzia Fides news agency confirmed that Fr. John Gbakaan was found mutilated and tied to a tree along a road in Niger State.

Fr. Gbakaan and his brother had been travelling through an area of the country where Islamist violence had been accelerating in the past year. Gbakaan’s brother has not been found.

Days earlier, the unidentified kidnappers tried to ransom the two men to the local Catholic Church for US$80,000.

Rev. John Hayab of the Christian Association of Nigeria told media that Christian teachers accross the Muslim-majority north of the country no longer feel safe to work.

“We received the news of the kidnapped and killing of our dear Rev. Fr John with great shock and pains,” he said.

“Today in Northern Nigeria many people are living in fear and many young people are afraid to become pastors because pastors’ lives are in great danger.

In the past year, Islamist violence has spread throughout much of Nigeria, including the area where Fr. Gbakaan was travelling. Loosely-organized gangs and groups associated with ISIS have been targetting Christians in rural areas for murder and kidnapping.

Activists say that the Nigerian government is failing to protect its Christian population as attacks increase and strict gun control prevents Christians from protecting themselves.

Rev. Hayab also believes that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to fight violence against Christians, adding that citizens are only speaking out because the levels of violence cannot be justified.

“Sadly, those in power are wanting us to be singing their praises while our loved ones are being killed. No responsible citizen will enjoy criticising his leaders for fun or because he hates them. Citizens criticise leaders so that they will sit up and do what is right,” said Hayab.

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