After the latest spate of abductions and killings of clergy by Muslims, Nigerian Church officials are wondering aloud whether priests are becoming an “endangered species” in the African country.
One senior Nigerian priest was kidnapped earlier this week and is now being held for ransom, which is just the latest in a string of violent attacks on Christian clergy in Nigeria.
On Monday, assailants presumed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen held up the car carrying Rev. Emmanuel Dim, the Rector of Tansi Major Seminary, along with two other priests. The attackers carried Dim off, after shooting one of his companions in the head and injuring the other.
Dim’s kidnappers have demanded a ransom of some $8,000, according to the director of communications for the Diocese of Nnewi in Anambra State, Fr. Hyginus Aghaulor.
The priest said that the policy of the Nigerian Catholic Bishops Conference forbids the payment of ransom for the release of its priests, so “anybody that is demanding a ransom for the release of any kidnapped priest is wasting time.”
Because of the frequency of the occurrence, however, Aghaulor said: “One begins to wonder if Catholic priest have become [an] endangered species.”
On the same day, an unidentified priest of the Vincentian order was kidnapped together with his brother. Another priest, Father Emmanuel Ugwu, was kidnapped in August and a seminarian was murdered.
Father Aghaulor has blamed the ineffectiveness and culpable negligence of government officials of southeastern Nigeria for the ease with which Christian clergy can be attacked with impunity.
“While innocent people are left unprotected, we have seen barrage of military wares and personnel protecting the pipelines in Niger Delta, as if oil is more important than people’s life,” he said.
Clergy are not the only targets for violent attacks from the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram jihadists, who also seek out other Christians.
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), Boko Haram leaders have recently declared their strategy of deliberately targeting Christian villages in Nigeria as part of their war on infidels.
Along with the assaults on priests Monday, Islamic terrorists slaughtered at least two other Christians the same day during attacks on the villages of Kuburumbula and Boftari in the Chibok area of northeastern Nigeria.
In one of the villages, Islamists torched seven houses, vandalized shops and set fire to market products, killing one Christian man before the Nigerian military eventually arrived. In the second village, eyewitnesses reported that jihadists dragged a Christian man into town, tied him up with rope and executed him in cold blood while his wife and children were forced to watch.
Earlier this month, eight Christians were shot dead by insurgents from Boko Haram as they were leaving a church service in the village of Kwamjilari.