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Gunmen kidnap 2 Catholic priests in Nigeria

Father Stephen Ojapah and Father Oliver Okpara, who were abducted in Nigeria’s Sokoto diocese on May 25, 2022. / Father Chris Omotosho.

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Gunmen attacked a Catholic rectory and kidnapped two priests in northwest Nigeria on Wednesday.

Father Stephen Ojapah and Father Oliver Okpara were abducted after gunmen broke into the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Gidan Maikambo, in the middle of the night on May 25, according to a statement from the Diocese of Sokoto.

Two boys were also kidnapped along with the priests, according to Father Chris Omotosho, a spokesman for the diocese, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

Omotosho, a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria, of which one of the abducted priests is also a member, appealed for prayers “for their safety and release.”

The kidnapping is the latest incident in a series of attacks that have reportedly targeted Church institutions in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

ACI Africa reported on May 14 that Muslim youths vandalized multiple Catholic churches in the area, including the Sokoto diocese’s Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, and the St. Bakhita Center.

The young people vandalized the churches in protest at the arrest of suspects in the stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu on May 12.

Yakubu, a young Christian woman who was studying economics at a college in Sokoto, was stoned to death and then burned by male students at the college who accused her of blasphemy.

She had reportedly testified that Jesus Christ helped her pass exams, and was then accused of making blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.

Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Makurdi, Benue State, issued a statement on May 20 questioning why the Nigerian government continued to remain silent amid persistent attacks in the West African nation.

Anagbe said that widespread terrorism by Islamist Fulani herdsmen in Benue State had made it nearly impossible to conduct pastoral visits in the area.

The bishop decried the silence of the international community amid the suffering of Christians in Nigeria.

“Sadly, we continue to draw the attention of the outside world to the plan by Islamists to Islamize Christian territories countless times with little or no attention paid to our cry and call for help,” he said.

“Sometimes it appears we have been abandoned to the mercy of the jihadists.”

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.