NigeriaAFP news agency

Christians in Nigeria are an endangered species, according to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Oritsejafor met this week with U.S. lawmakers, pleading for help in combating the Islamist groups, which have mercilessly attacked Christian communities for the past several years – making Nigeria one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians.

Currently there are some 80 million Christians in the country, but many of them, especially in the north of the country, have faced terror and death at the hand of Islamist groups such as Boko Haram, whose leader, Abubaker Schekau, has personally murdered hundreds of Christians, and helped plan the murders of many more. In 2012, more than 100 Christians died on average each month in northern Nigeria, many by members of the Jihad group.

In a recent troubling development, Oritsejafor told legislators that Islamists have begun targeting not only churches, but also schools – shooting up classrooms with children in attendance. Islamists have declared all schools except those teaching Islam illegal, and Boko Haram is intent on enforcing that law, as well as others drawn from Sharia Islamic law. "It is open season on Nigeria's Christians," Oritesejafor told the legislators.

Speaking at an event at the National Press Club, Oritsejafor said that the U.S. was perhaps the last hope for Nigerian Christians. “America has a strong history of civil rights,” he said, “and my hope is that our brothers here can awaken the conscience of humanity to stop this genocide.”