Abductors Demand Ransom to Free Priests, Nun, Others Kidnapped in Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese

Credit: Mamfe Diocese

Those behind the abduction of five Catholic Priests, a Catholic Nun and three others in Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese are demanding a ransom of some US$100,000.00 in order to free them, a Catholic Archbishop in the Central African nation has told ACI Africa.

On September 16, unidentified gunmen attacked St. Mary's Catholic Nchang Parish of Mamfe Diocese in Cameroon during which nine people were abducted and buildings in the Parish premises, including the church, razed. 

The attackers kidnapped Fr. Elias Okorie, Fr. Barnabas Ashu, Fr. Cornelius Jingwa, Fr. Job Francis Nwobegu, Fr. Emmanuel Asaba, Sr. Jacinta C. Udeagha, Mr. Nkem Patrick Osang (Assisting Catechist), Ms. Blanche Bright, and Mme. Kelechukwu.

In a Wednesday, September 21 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya said since the abductors made contact with Church authorities, “they are only asking for money.”

“Those who abducted these people and set the church ablaze are only asking for ransom,” Archbishop Nkea said, and added, “They are demanding 100,000 USD and they have been arguing and coming down. They are somewhere around 50,000 USD but we don't have even a dollar to pay for this kind of thing.”


According to Archbishop Nkea, the abductors who claim to be Separatists fighters, “See the Church as a soft target to be able to make money.”

“But the Church has no money to pay ransom,” the Local Ordinary of Bamenda who started his Episcopal Ministry in Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese as Coadjutor Bishop in August 2013 told ACI Africa. 

The Cameroonian Catholic Archbishop further said that the abductors “are claiming that the Church has not been supporting the struggle for independence by Separatists fighters and so they want money.”

“We have tried to explain to all those who have always tried to abduct ministers of the Church that the Church cannot be paying ransom to separatists fighters or to criminals,” the Catholic Church leader who was appointed Archbishop in December 2019, and installed as Local Ordinary of Bamenda Archdiocese in February 2020 said.

The arson attack on St. Mary's Catholic Nchang Parish is one of the latest incidents in the protracted conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking North West and the South West regions. The conflict was sparked by a protest involving lawyers and teachers in 2016. 

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An armed separatists’ movement claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia emerged following the government’s crackdown on the protests.

English speakers make up around 20 percent of Cameroon’s population and have long complained about being marginalized by the French-speaking ruling class.

On September 17, members of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) called on those behind the abduction of the members of the Clergy, the Religious Sister, and the Laity, “to release them without further delay”.

Meanwhile in a statement issued Wednesday, September 21, the Local Ordinary of Mamfe Diocese, Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo, appeals for prayers for the safe release of the nine abductees.

“The news of the desecration of the main church of St. Mary's Parish, Nchang, and the kidnap of our Priests, Religious, brothers and sisters on that fateful Friday, September 16, 2022, has dealt a very grievous blow to us as a Church,” Bishop Abangalo says.


The Cameroonian Bishop adds, “We did not fail to associate such pain to the saving passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in the wake of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - the source of our hope and victory - which we celebrated two days after the ill-fated incident.”

“Even as I write to indicate that nine members of our beloved Diocesan Family are still in the hands of the abductors, I urge you not to relax every prayerful endeavor for their safety and subsequent release,” Bishop Abangalo says in his September 21 message shared with ACI Africa.

The Cameroonian Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in May this year adds, “It is thanks to the prayers so far that I attest that they are alive and strong and that we are gradually surmounting every feat surrounding their subsequent release.”

“It is actually at this moment that we need to showcase our much needed ‘One Family' spirit, above all, by storming the heavens with prayers on their behalf and for all those in similar situations,” he says, and continues, “Pray too for their family and friends, that they may collaborate with the gentle Spirit of God, and together join us all to where the same Spirit is already leading us as a Church.” 

The 49-year-old Cameroonian Bishop urges the people of God in his Episcopal See not to “lose sight of what our faith teaches that being the body of Christ we must have our own fair share of sufferings and persecution - this is exactly what the Church is going through in our time.” 

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“Since the body is always complete only when united with the head, let us be rest assured that the resilience of Christ, the Head, whose Body we are as Church, will forever remain the source of our hope in these troubled times,” Bishop Abangalo further says.

He continues, “As we continue to pray for the conversion of those who have taken upon themselves the awkward duty of persecuting God's Church, let us not fail to configure our whole being to the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who never failed to participate actively in the passion of her Son - a reality we celebrated on the eve of this unfortunate incident.”

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, he implores, “who is the Help of Christians and Mother of the Church, continue to intercede for us always, and above all, during this moment of pain and sorrow.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.