AFRICA/NIGERIA - The Bishop of Awka, after the last kidnapping of a priest: "Why persecute those working out your salvation?"

Tuesday, 11 September 2018 kidnappings   priests  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - "Catholic priests live on parishioners’ benevolence. Whatever they receive as gifts are what they live with, no additional income anywhere. They have given up everything — children, accumulation of wealth, owning and acquisition of property", said His Exc. Mgr. Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, Bishop of Awka, in southern Nigeria, in whose diocese the last case in terms of the kidnapping of a priest for the purpose of extortion took place. Fr. Christopher Ogaga, pastor of the Emmanuel Catholic Church in Oviri-Okpe, in the Delta State, was kidnapped on September 1 (see Fides 5/9/2018). For his release, the kidnappers had requested a ransom of 15 million naira (about 40,000 euros). The priest was then freed on September 5 without the ransom being paid (see Fides 6/9/2018).
"It is unimaginable and foolhardy the demand on the Church to pay for the release of any abducted priests" reiterated Mgr. Ezeokafor who underlines how they "sacrificed their earthly pleasures just to serve God and humanity". "The priests - emphasized the Bishop - need prayers, help, encouragement and not this type of treatment".
Given the economic conditions of the priests, Mgr. Ezeokafor asks "where would they get the money from (for the release)? These priests are going around preaching and calling for repentance. Why go after them?"
"These people are working for God and humanity. They are not being paid. They rely solely on people’s assistance, goodwill and kind gestures for their survival. Why go after those working out your salvation? I cannot understand it", concluded Mgr. Ezeokafor.
In recent years, especially in the southern states in Nigeria, the kidnappings of priests and religious have generally increased along the arteries linking one city to another. Most of them are released after a few days, but for almost two years. No one has received news of Fr. Gabriel Oyaka, a Nigerian Spiritan father (Congregation of the Holy Spirit), abducted on September 7, 2015 in the state of Kogi (see Fides 10/9/2015).
The Bishops' Conference of Nigeria has forbidden payment of any ransom in the case of the kidnapping of priests and religious men and women. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 11/9/2018)