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Left Unchecked, Abductions “to give Nigeria a bad name, scare away visitors”: Archbishop

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama administering the Sacrament of Baptism during Holy Mass Sunday, January 10.

Continued abductions in Nigeria will give the country “a bad name” internationally, an Archbishop in the West African nation said over the weekend.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama who was presiding over Holy Mass Sunday, January 10 in his Archdiocese of Abuja described kidnapping as criminal, sinful, shameful, and disgusting, and appealed for prayer for the conversion of abductors.

“The act of kidnapping to say the least is criminal, sinful and degrades humanity,” Archbishop Kaigama said January 10 during Mass at St. Anthony’s Parish, Yangoji of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese, where Fr. Matthew Dajo who was kidnapped last November and freed after 10 days ministers.

The Archbishop added, “Left unchecked by the Nigerian authorities, this shameful and disgusting act will continue to give Nigeria a bad name and scare away visitors and investors to the country.”

Making reference to abductions that have targeted Catholic Church leader, Archbishop Kaigama said, “Whatever may be the motive of the kidnap, monetary or sheer intimidation, it should be clear to those engaged in such nefarious activities that the Catholic Church in all parts of the world brings the Good News to the poor through huge sacrifices.”

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The Catholic Church, the 62-year-old Nigerian Prelate went on to say, “compliments government efforts through her selfless social, educational and medical services to the needy. Molesting the Church is molesting the needy.”

“Whatever the Catholic Church has and does, is for the good of all, irrespective of religious, ethnic or political differences,” he reiterated.

Members of the Clergy have been targeted in kidnappings in Africa’s most populous nation.

On December 27, the Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Owerri, Moses Chikwe, was abducted alongside his driver. They were released after five days of captivity.

Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, a member of the Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) was kidnapped in Imo State en route to his father’s funeral in the neighboring Anambra State, Southeastern Nigeria on December 15. The Nigerian was released the following day.

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In November, Fr. Matthew Dajo, a Cleric of the Archdiocese of Abuja, was kidnapped and released after ten days in captivity.

In his homily January 10, Archbishop Kaigama lauded the faithful of St. Anthony’s Parish, Yangoji for their spiritual solidarity with Fr. Dajo following his abduction last November.

“I commend you for your strength of faith, and for persevering in prayers with the conviction that he would be released,” the Archbishop said in reference to Fr. Dajo.

He added addressing himself to the people of God at St. Anthony’s Parish, Yangoji, “You did not allow the sad incident to demoralize you as you continued your spiritual and pastoral activities to the surprise of the perpetrators of such an evil.”

Despite Fr. Dajo’s travails in the hands of his abductors, “he remains generally well, apart from the psychological trauma he still suffers,” Archbishop Kaigama reassured.

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The Archbishop went on to pray for the release of those who are still in captivity and for the conversion of criminals including kidnapers and rapists.

“May Christ manifest Himself to the perpetrators of such evil actions as kidnapping, rape, killings, etc. and grant them a change of heart,” Archbishop Kaigama said.

Last month, the U.S. State Department listed Nigeria among the worst countries for religious freedom, describing the West African nation as a “country of particular concern (CPC).” This is a formal designation reserved for nations where the worst violations of religious freedom are taking place, the other countries being China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.

The action by the U.S. State Department was lauded by the leadership of Knights of Columbus, with the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson saying December 16, “Nigeria's Christians have suffered grievously at the hands of Boko Haram and other groups.”

The murders and kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria now “verge on genocide,” Anderson added. 

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“The Christians of Nigeria, both Catholic and Protestant, deserve attention, recognition and relief now,” Anderson further said, adding, “Nigeria's Christians should be able to live in peace and practice their faith without fear."

A March 2020 special report released by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) indicates that “no fewer than 20 clergymen including at least eight Catholic Priests/Seminarians were hacked to death in the past 57 months and not less than 50 abducted or kidnapped.”

Catholic Bishops in the country have repeatedly called on the government to put in place strict measures to protect her citizens.

“It is just unimaginable and inconceivable to celebrate Nigeria at 60 when our roads are not safe; our people are kidnapped, and they sell their properties to pay ransom to criminals,” the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria said in their October 1 collective statement.