(LifeSiteNews) — Two Nigerian priests have been abducted in what is, according to local reports, “the latest in the series of kidnappings and attacks targeting Christian institutions, clerics, and the faithful in Nigeria.”
According to African news outlet Shalom World, “gunmen abducted two priests in the southern Nigerian Delta State. The Catholic priests Fr. Chochos Kunav and his colleague Fr. Raphael Ogigba was abducted on Saturday, April 30.”
The report states that “the kidnappers who took two Catholic priests hostage in the state are being sought after, according to the Delta State Police Command. DSP Bright Edafe, the state’s police public relations officer, confirmed the incident and stated that the command was on the trail of the kidnappers to free the victims. The clergy members were reportedly kidnapped on Saturday night while traveling to Ughelli on the Agbara-Otor road.”
According to Agenzia Fides, the news outlet for the Pontifical Mission Societies, “Father Kunav works in the Diocese of Ibadan, but had gone to Warri to visit some acquaintances.”
Kunav is a member of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Fathers, and Ogigba is a priest of the diocese of Warri, stationed at St. Francis Church in Agbara Otor, in Delta State. The Schoenstatt Fathers said of the incident, “Unfortunately, last night (Sunday, April 30), after a brief visit to a neighboring parish, Father Chochos Kunav and Father Ralph Ogigba were kidnapped on their way back to Father Ogigba’s parish.”
At the end of March, Agenzia Fides noted that the abduction of clergy and religious in Nigeria has increasingly become part of the Islamic persecution of Christians in the country. Reporting the data given by the bishops’ conference in Nigeria, the news agency stated, “From 2006 to 2023, 53 priests in Nigeria have been kidnapped, 12 attacked and 16 killed. In 17 years, 81 priests in Nigeria have been victims of attacks.”
READ: Nigerian church reopens 10 months after gunmen killed over 50 Mass-goers
Linking the abduction of Catholic clergy to Islamic terrorist groups, the report continued, “The scourge of kidnappings of priests and religious in Nigeria has long been known and is part of a broader phenomenon of kidnappings that target, among others, foreigners, businessmen, politicians, government officials, diplomats and traditional rulers, but also ordinary citizens including students and schoolchildren, often victims of mass abductions.”
“Northern Nigeria is the area where the kidnapping problem has long been linked to the presence of terrorist groups, beginning with Boko Haram, from whose splits other groups have emerged, the most important of which is the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP). But in recent years, the phenomenon has spread to different parts of Nigeria, including the south, where the scourge of kidnapping is intertwined with secessionist claims.”
Corroborating the Islamic persecution of Nigerian Christians, Open Doors’ World Watch List 2023 (WWL) – which details annually the persecution of Christians through the world – says of the Christian persecution in Nigeria, “The violence is most pervasive in the north, where militant groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani militants inflict murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence on their victims. Christians are dispossessed of their land and their means of livelihood. Many live as internally displaced people or refugees… Violence and land grabbing are not limited to the north alone. Fulani militants have carried these practices into the southern regions, where communities, villages and other locations have been invaded.”
In its full report on Nigeria, WWL states, “A very specific form of violence against Christians are the raids on (often) small Christian communities (or villages) in the rural areas of various states. When a (mainly) Christian community is attacked, some of the residents are killed, others are (seriously) wounded and others are abducted. Often men and boys are killed, with women and girls being abducted. Many flee from their houses and fields. There is constant fear: When night falls, there is always the danger of possible attack, and anxiety about what might happen to oneself and one’s family.”
“The raids on Christian communities, and other forms of violence, lead to large numbers of Christians (and also other Nigerians) being forced to live in formal or informal IDP camps and cause loss of family farmland and property and hence loss of future well-being. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in such circumstances: Children are vulnerable to health issues, and women and girls to abuse and human trafficking. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the Nigerian government does little to assist these IDPs and is not curbing the situation that has created the crisis.”
“It could be argued that the whole country is increasingly becoming a hotspot for religious freedom violations.”
Similarly, a report issued by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law on April 10 stated that “since [the] 2009 Islamic uprising, 52,250 Christians and 34,000 moderate Muslims have been butchered or hacked to death.” According to the report, these attacks and murders are being performed not only by terrorist groups but also by state supporters’ groups, including the Nigerian army.
READ: Over 50,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed for their faith since 2009: report
Because of the plight of Christians in Nigeria, Bishop Jude Arogundade, who reopened a church on Easter Sunday 10 months after at least 50 people were killed during Mass by terrorists who opened fire on the congregation, and Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe have appealed to the European Parliament and the U.S. for assistance. Arogundade has also accused U.S. Democrats of deliberately turning a blind eye to Christian persecution in his homeland.
Despite the extreme persecution, Nigeria remains the foremost country in the world for Catholic practicing their faith, with 94% attending Sunday Mass.
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