CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2020 / 08:20 am (CNA).- A Nigerian archbishop has asked for prayers for the safe release of a priest kidnapped in Abuja earlier this week.
Fr. Matthew Dajo was kidnapped on Sunday night. Police are currently working to negotiate his release, the archdiocesan spokesman, Fr. Patrick Alumuku, told CNA Nov. 27.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja appealed for prayers for the abducted priest at a virtual event on persecuted Christians Nov. 25.
“My priest in Abuja was kidnapped and he is still in captivity. Kindly pray for his safe release, please,” the archbishop said.
Dajo was abducted by gunmen during an attack on the town of Yangoji, where his parish St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is located.
“Armed bandits raided the community and shot sporadically for about 30 minutes,” Fr. Kevin Oselumhense Anetor told CNA’s African news partner, ACI Africa.
“The gunmen scaled through the fence of the priest’s house, while others positioned themselves outside, before entering Fr. Matthew’s bedroom and whisking him away.”
Kidnappings of Catholics in Nigeria are an ongoing problem that not only affects priests and seminarians, but also lay faithful, Kaigama said.
“We have cases of abductions, detentions, and killings by terrorist groups, criminal herdsmen, bandits, and gangs of kidnappers to contend with,” he said.
“Last week, in one of our parishes in Abuja archdiocese behind the parish house, five children of the same parents were kidnapped, and the following day a woman preparing for her church wedding was also kidnapped. They have not been found.”
The Islamist group Boko Haram has been behind many of the abductions, including that of 110 students kidnapped from their boarding school in Feb. 2018. Of those kidnapped, one girl, Leah Sharibu, is still being held.
“Leah has become a symbol of Christian resilience against forced conversion,” the archbishop said.
He added that “however we must not forget the remaining 112 Chibok girls and others who are held captive with many either dead or forcefully married off,” referring to the kidnapping of 276 girls in the town of Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.
“Others like her are used as human shields, sex slaves, or bargaining chips for ransom from government and international organizations,” he said.
“The forceful abduction and conversion of underage Christians girls is real. On the other hand, Muslim girls who freely choose to marry Christian men face threats of death.”
Archbishop Kaigama spoke at a virtual event organized by Aid to the Church in Need UK for “Red Wednesday.”
Aid to the Church in Need began the annual Red Wednesday initiative in 2015 to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world by illuminating in red major landmarks, such as the Colosseum in Rome and Westminster Cathedral in London.
At the event, the Nigerian archbishop appealed for support for his community as it struggled with the attacks of Boko Haram and other groups.
“Western nations need to pay the same attention to this reality as they vigorously do in their countries in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“The Christian-dominated Middle Belt and some parts of northern Nigeria will have no future if groups like Boko Haram and allied terror groups continue to harass them.”
“The U.K. and other nations with Christians roots should speak and act more in favor of freedom in northern Nigeria.”
Kaigama said that the United Nations, the European Union, and key countries like the United States could also do more in sharing strategic intelligence and give more technical support in the face of these terrorist threats.
“We are united in prayer and action for Christians unjustly detained for their faith. We strongly urge that they all be set free,” he said.