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Carole Mikita ReportingFour missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are being held hostage in Nigeria this morning.
Church leaders say they don't know who kidnapped them, but say local tribal leaders are in contact with the hostage-takers.
"They really revere the missionaries, they'll let them go. I don't think this kidnapping is going to last long."
The four young missionaries are all Nigerian citizens and are serving in the Port Harcourt Mission.
Church leaders issued a statement Tuesday: "Abductions have recently increased in this troubled, oil-rich region, but hostages are generally released unharmed. We pray for the welfare of these young men and are doing everything possible to resolve this matter."
Kidnappers have taken dozens of foreign workers since January, as violence has increased. An American worker was released late last Saturday in the southern oil region.
Nigeria is a land of incredible contrasts -- rich in natural beauty and natural resources, the 6th largest producer of light crude oil in the world. The country exports two million barrels a day, but the people do not benefit. Most live in abject poverty.
Anne Pingree, LDS Church, Gen. Relief Society Presidency: "The country could be very wealthy if the resources, the revenue was spread across all of the people, but it isn't."
George Pingree, Former Mission President: "And I think that's why these missionaries may have been kidnapped, because of the frustration of the people. They see they're not getting ahead, they are not seeing any of the fruits of the oil labor."
George and Anne Pingree spent three years, from 1995 to 1998, in Nigeria. He served as a mission president. Church President Gordon B. Hinckley made his first trip in '98 to speak to a huge regional conference. Many then and now are very well aware of the church's headquarters.
George Pingree: "They look on America as being a very rich country, so I think there are some misdirected people who felt that they might be able to get something out of America."
President Hinckley returned to Nigeria in 2005 to dedicate a new temple in Aba. The Pingrees say the kidnappers are likely just making a statement. They believe most Nigerians like Latter-day Saint missionaries.
Anne and George Pingree: "They're respected and they will be treated well, and I believe they'll be released. They just need our prayers. I think the missionaries will start teaching the gospel to the abductors, that's the first thing they'll do."
The LDS Church has five missions now in Nigeria and a couple of hundred missionaries. The married couple missionaries there are from North America, but all single missionaries are from West Africa.