JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed a Pentecostal pastor and abducted a Baptist pastor in a spate of kidnappings this month in Kaduna state, Nigeria, sources said.
“The herdsmen, about 20 of them, shot into our house and broke the doors of the house,” said Emmanuel Noma, who along with his father, 60-year-old pastor Elisha Noma, was kidnapped at 1 a.m. on Aug. 14. “They forced us out of the house at gunpoint and took us away. After two hours they released me, with the demand that I should go and raise 20 million naira [US$55,155] for them before they will release my father or else he would be killed.”
The Rev. Joseph Hayap, chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), confirmed the kidnapping of Pastor Noma, of Nagarta Baptist Church in Makiri, Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria. Pastor Hayap said the kidnappers have reduced their ransom demand from the original 20 million naira.
“The kidnapping herdsmen are now asking for 7 million naira [US$19,304], but we are still negotiating,” said Pastor Hayap, a Baptist.
Two weeks earlier, Fulani herdsmen killed pastor Jeremiah Omolewa of Living Faith Church in the Romi New Extension area of the city of Kaduna and kidnapped his wife, a church source told Morning Star News. Attacked on Aug. 4 along the Kaduna-Abuja highway on their way to Abuja, he was killed when the herdsmen shot at their car after the pastor finished leading three services at his church, the source said.
Pastor Omolewa’s wife was released after the church paid 3 million naira (US$8,273) to the herdsmen as ransom, the source said. A press statement from the church reported that the ransom was paid after negotiations with the herdsmen brought the amount down from 10 million naira (US$27,577). She was released on the Aug. 8 at about 10 p.m.
Kaduna State CAN Chairman Hayap told Morning Star News that she was recovered along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway.
“When she was with the kidnappers, she didn’t know that her husband had died,” Pastor Hayap said.
The day she was released, another group of herdsmen attacked a Roman Catholic parish in Kasuwan Magani, a town south of the city of Kaduna. A security guard was killed as the parish priest at St. Luke’s Catholic Church, the Rev. Joseph Kato Kwassau, escaped.
About 20 armed herdsmen arrived at the premises in a mini-van, according to a church press statement.
“They were armed with guns and other dangerous weapons,” it read.
Kwassau told Morning Star News by phone that the attack took place at about midnight, when only he and the church guard were in their living quarters on the premises.
Kidnapping is rampant in Nigeria. Hayap said more than 500 Christians have been kidnapped in Kaduna state in the past four years. Churches have paid about 300 million Naira (US$827,321) to Muslim Fulani Herdsmen to ransom them, he said.
“We as the church, the body of Christ, have found ourselves in a very bad situation in Kaduna state,” he said. “Pastors and church members are being kidnapped, and huge sums of money are being demanded, and nothing has been done by Nigeria government to halt the situation.”
Hayap appealed to the Nigerian government to urgently take measures to bring to an end to attacks on Christians and churches in Kaduna state and across the country.
Kwassau of St. Luke’s, who is also a dean of Rimau Deanery of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, said that the Christian community at Kasuwan Magani has been under attack from herdsmen and local Muslims for some time. Hayap concurred that Christians in Kasuwan Magani have been attacked various times by herdsmen.
“As I speak to you, a daughter of a Baptist pastor in the area of Kasuwan Magani is under the captivity of the herdsmen,” Hayap said. “So we are really concerned that Christians and their pastors in Kaduna State are no longer safe.”
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.