07/18/2022 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – On Friday July 15, two Catholic priests were kidnapped in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna state. The priests, Father John Mark Cheitnum and Father Denatus Cleopas, were taken at Christ the King Catholic Church on Friday evening.
Father Emmanuel Uchechukwu Okolo, the chancellor of the Kafanhan diocese, prayed for the release of the priests, “May Jesus, crucified on the Cross, listen to our prayers and hasten the unconditional release of His priests and all other kidnapped persons.” He also expressed the priority of their release saying, “We will use every legitimate means to ensure their quick and safe release.”
A Catholic nonprofit, Aid to the Church in Need, estimated that, in July, at least seven priests have been kidnapped in Nigeria. In 2022 alone, 20 Nigerian priests have been kidnapped. David Otto, the director of the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies, argues that the Catholic Church in Nigeria is often a target for abductions because it is willing to pay the high ransoms that the kidnappers demand.
The Bishop Jude Arogundade in Nigeria’s Ondo State told the Catholic News Agency that the Nigerian Catholic Church is a “strategic target and threat” to Fulani militants and Islamic extremist groups that use violence in the country.
The Nigerian Diocesan Catholic Priests Association released a statement in response to the abductions. “Our duty is to lay before the altar of God the gratitude, cares, worries and petitions of the faithful and ours. We are advocates of pro-life and peace. We were called and sent to preach the good news to the poor, give liberty to captives, free the oppressed, heal the broken-hearted, bind up wounds, and the likes. We have been fulfilling this call and we shall continue.”
The affiliation of the kidnappers is still unknown.
Please pray for the safe return of Father John Mark Cheitnum and Father Denatus Cleopas.