A Nigerian priest abducted and held for ransom by gunmen has given a harrowing account of the fear and humiliation he suffered in captivity.

Speaking for the first time to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Idahosa Amadasu said that he did not know whether he would survive after being captured by masked men while driving on a notoriously dangerous road in Benin Diocese, southern Nigeria.

Father Amadasu said that the men started shooting at him, forcing him to stop the engine and get out of his car with his hands held up.

He added: “I realised later I had been quite lucky. The driver of the car immediately after mine was shot dead…”

Recalling the abduction, which took place in 2020, he explained that the kidnappers demanded payment for his release and threatened to kill him if he did not cooperate.

Although his movements were closely monitored and controlled, Father Amadasu said that he was “more concerned that they did not take my inner freedom – that the atmosphere of fear did not consume my inner peace.

“Prayer was my best way to ensure this.

“I was quite conscious of the fact that it was only when I maintained my inner peace that I will continue to be sane and act rationally, in an irrational atmosphere, where might is right.”

Father Amadasu is just one of hundreds of Catholic priests seized by armed bandits in Nigeria in the last decades.

In 2023 alone, 28 Church personnel were kidnapped in the country, including three religious Sisters.

Father Amadasu said his abductors were constantly on the move, forcing him to walk long distances in forests and climb hills in the dark.

He added: “I tried to live from within. Each time I became afraid, or they threatened me with their guns, I reminded myself that the God I serve is greater than their guns.

“I also said the prayer to St Michael often, because there is something quite demonic in an atmosphere where human life does not matter, or when money is priced above life.”

The priest said: “I have always trusted in the special protection of the Rosary, and I was saying the Rosary when I encountered the kidnappers.

“But it is reassuring to know that God’s special protection is not one that simply prevents misfortunes from happening, rather he prevents such misfortunes from consuming us.”

He stressed that he “did not feel a particular animosity towards the kidnappers” but was “full of pity for them” and prayed for their conversion.

He said: “The way they often referred to God really set me thinking that these men are also children of God who are called to salvation…

“My overall perception was that they still lived with some awareness of God’s presence.

“On one occasion, as I asked if could speak to my negotiator, one of them told me to wait for him to finish praying.

“When one of them gave me roasted corn, and I said thank you, he replied ‘thank God’.”

He said that, while praying, “the words of 1 John 4:4 kept ringing in my ears: ‘Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world’.

“Christ’s words during his Passion also sometimes came to my mind: ‘You will have no power over me if it has not been given to you from above.’ (John 19:11)”

Father Amadasu concluded: “God knows how to bring out the best from even the worst situations, and ‘his hand is never shortened’ (Isaiah 59:1).

“We trust in his constant protection to lead us through, until we reach our final destination, where evil can no longer disturb our inner peace.”