Vatican says 20 Nigerian Catholic priests kidnapped in 2022


As insecurity escalates in Nigeria, the Vatican says at least 20 Catholic priests have been kidnapped in Nigeria since the start of 2022.

In the first week of July alone, five Catholic priests were kidnapped in Nigeria, according to Vatican News.

Fr John Mark Cheitnum and Fr Donatus Cleopas are the latest victims, kidnapped on July 15 as they moved between parishes in Nigeria.

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Father Cheitnum was murdered on the day of his abduction and his already decomposing corpse was discovered on July 19. Father Cleopas was able to escape his captors and returned home, according to a statement from the Kafanchan diocese to which the two priests belong. .

The two priests were kidnapped shortly after arriving at Christ the King Parish Rectory, Yadin Garu, Kaduna State.

Fr Cheitnum was the Chairperson of Jama’a Local Government Area of ​​the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as well as Coordinating Chairperson of CAN, Kaduna South.


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He was also Dean of Kwoi Deanery, Director of Communications for Kafanchan Diocese and Pastor of St. James Parish, Fori.

According to Open Doors’ 2021 Global Watchlist, more Christians were killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in 2020 – 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019. In overall violence, Nigeria was just behind Pakistan, while it followed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed.

Amid growing attacks, priests and parishioners say they are afraid to go to church because they don’t know who will be the next victim.

Attacks on priests have also been aggravated by growing insecurity in the country. The government has been accused of not doing enough to protect citizens across religious and ethnic lines.

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to fight insecurity once elected. But security has not improved under his leadership despite the army’s efforts to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria.

According to Fr Ugochukwu Ugwoke in an interview with Catholic World Report, insecurity in Nigeria has become a big concern and priests do not feel safe in their various ministries.

“I have never seen insecurity go so far in the country,” he said. “The current administration has not done enough to protect lives and property because even at home we are not safe and when we go out we are not safe either.”

Prof. Ugwoke adds that the inability to arrest and prosecute gunmen who attack priests and Christians has encouraged them to continue their killing.

“Today in Northern Nigeria many people are living in fear and many young people are afraid to become pastors because the lives of pastors are in great danger,” said Reverend John Hayab of the Christian Association of Nigeria. “When bandits or kidnappers realize that their victim is a priest or a pastor, it seems that a violent spirit takes hold of their hearts to demand more ransom and, in some cases, go so far as to kill the We simply implore the federal government and all security agencies to do whatever it takes to put an end to this evil.

Additionally, foreign governments and organizations have condemned the regular attacks on Christians in Nigeria.

The UK-based Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust claims that more than 1,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2019 alone. The organization further reported that at that time, 6,000 Nigerians had been killed. and 12,000 displaced since 2015.

Last year, the United States named Nigeria a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom, alongside China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This designation is for nations that engage in or condone “systemic, ongoing, and gross violations of religious freedom.” If they fail to improve their records, penalties may follow.

The Vatican has responded to attacks on priests, with Pope Francis calling for prayers over insecurity in the country.

“Let us also ask for intercession for all the situations in the world that most need hope: hope for peace, justice, hope for a dignified life,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus broadcast via his Twitter account. official. “Today I would like to pray especially for the people of the northern region of Nigeria, victims of violence and terrorist attacks,” he said.

African Democratic Congress, ADC presidential candidate Dumebi Kachikwu also condemned the upsurge in attacks on Catholic priests in the country.

In a statement on Thursday, he called the development unacceptable and an unprovoked assault on a part of the population dedicated to the service of God and humanity. He insisted that the ugly development must be urgently nipped in the bud by concerned security.

The Nigerian government has been unable to provide adequate security to the citizens and as a result there is growing insecurity in the country. Since the terrorists are aware of the weaknesses of the Nigerian state, they attack at will realizing that there is no real restraining force. Few people, including Catholic priests, are left vulnerable to the whims and whims of terrorists.

Unfortunately, apprehended or so-called repentant terrorists in Nigeria are pardoned and reinstated into society with due diligence of checks. These repentant terrorists later turn into unrepentant terrorists to continue wreaking havoc in society. Similarly, the kidnappers have bread thrown at them instead of being shot. They, in turn, use the ransom proceeds to purchase more weapons for bolder, faster kidnappings and murders – and the vicious cycle continues.

The religious fanaticism and ideological considerations of the terrorist stemming from erroneous teachings, doctrines, guidance and sometimes indoctrination for hatred of any other faith other than their own on the face of the earth.

Some have suggested that the ostentatious lifestyle displayed by some Catholic priests could be a source of attraction for kidnappers who end up killing the victim priests even after collecting the ransom. The religious war of rivalry for supremacy between the two great religions of Nigeria makes the Catholic priest vulnerable to attack, even to the point of total annihilation.

Catholic priests are seen as part of a privileged group and as such attacks may be an expression or form of blood feud based and fueled anticlericalism, or the loss of the sanctity and sanctity of the priesthood in as such. symbolized by the Catholic priest.

As things stand, the safety of Catholic priests should not just become a subject of political demagogy, but a decisive agenda in the run-up to the general elections of 2023. (With reports from Vatican News).


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