Nigeria Leads Countries with Most Christian Murders, Kidnappings of Clergy: Report

Sanctuary of the martyrs of brotherhood in Buta. Credit: ACN

The Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has compiled a report that places Nigeria ahead of all countries in the world that experienced most kidnappings of Clergy and the killing of Christians in 2023.

According to the charity foundation, the number of Priests or women and men Religious kidnapped in 2023 dropped to 33 from 54 in 2022 “but remains significant.”

This number includes five Priests who were abducted in previous years, but remained in the hands of their kidnappers or were unaccounted for in 2023, such as Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre, who was kidnapped in Mali in 2022, and released in November 2023.

“Nigeria leads the list by far,” ACN says on the kidnappings of religious people across the globe, adding that the West African country registered 28 cases of kidnapping, including three Catholic Nuns. 

Other countries where Priests were kidnapped, according to the Tuesday, January 9 ACN report, include Mali and Burkina Faso, while in Ethiopia one women Religious was abducted.


The charity foundation recalls the one case in Nigeria of Godwin Eze, the monk who was murdered by his kidnappers, adding that the vast majority of those kidnapped ended up being released.

Numbers collected by ACN indicate that a total of 132 Catholic Priests and women and men Religious were either arrested, kidnapped or murdered across the world in 2023.

This, according to the charity foundation that reaches out to Christians in countries experiencing religious persecution, represents an increase from 124 in 2022.

“These are, however, the confirmed cases. The number could be higher since in some countries reliable information is difficult to obtain,” ACN clarifies.

Apart from the kidnapping of the religious, Nigeria also registered the highest number of murders of Christians.

More in Africa

“Tragically, in 2023, many Christians, and especially clergy and religious, paid a heavy price for their commitment to common good, human rights, religious freedom and the freedom of the communities and nations they serve,” ACN reports, adding that 2023 saw 14 murders, including 11 Priests, one Bishop, one Religious Brother and one Seminarian. This, according to the Pontifical organization, represents a drop from the 18 registered in 2022.

Seven of the killings took place in circumstances that were either unclear or not directly related to any confirmed incident of persecution.

Of the other seven deaths directly related to persecution, Nigeria again has the highest number on the list with three. Fr. Isaac Achi was brutally murdered in January, when he was unable to escape his residence as it burned to the ground following an attack, and seminarian Na’aman Danlami suffered the exact same fate, but in September. 

Soon afterwards, in October, the Benedictine monk Eze, who had been abducted along with two fellow novices, was murdered by his kidnappers.

ACN has classified some of the murders as being for reasons of persecution, despite the unclear motives of the murderers. Fr. Pamphili Nada, for instance, was killed in Tanzania by a man with mental issues. 


In December, Fr. Leopold Feyen, an elderly Belgian priest, was stabbed to death by armed men who broke into his house in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he had served for decades.

ACN further clarifies that as far as it was able to ascertain, no women Religious were murdered in 2023.

Regarding arrests, the international charity says that it tracks only those that are related to persecution, and not to proven cases of common criminality. Cases related to members of other confessions are also not considered in the list.

ACN compiled reports indicating that a total of 86 members of Clergy were arrested or detained at some point during 2023.

Arrests of Clergy were, however, rife outside Africa, the charity foundation says, and explains, “Nicaragua and Belarus lead the list of authoritarian regimes that have resorted to detaining priests and religious in order to punish the Church for speaking out against injustices and human rights violations, or merely for trying to operate freely.”

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