Church in Mali Recounts “beautiful” Apostolate of Colombian Nun Abducted Four Years Ago

Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez, a member of the Congregation of the Fransiscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate who was kidnapped in February 2017 in Mali

The Catholic Church is praying for the safe release of a Colombian nun who was abducted by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda four years ago, leaving behind what has been described as a “beautiful, wonderful project” that sought to increase literacy among women in the West African country.

Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argot, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, was kidnapped in Southern Mali in the Catholic Diocese of Sikasso where she is said to have impacted the lives of hundreds of women.

In a report to the Pontifical charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, General Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, Father Alexandre Denou said that the Church was holding onto the news it had received earlier in a video from the jihadist group which suggested that Sr. Gloria was still alive.

Fr. Denou recalled that in October 2020, they received good news about Sr. Gloria following the release of the 75-year-old French doctor, Sophie Pétronin, who was her companion in captivity.

“The information we have about Sr. Gloria Cecilia's state of health was provided by former hostage Sophie Pétronin. The release of Sophie and other hostages was a sign of hope for us. It mobilized us again to pray and act for the Sister's release,” Fr. Denou said in a report shared with ACI Africa Thursday, February 11.


Sr. Rosa Julia Ibarra, representing the members of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, recalled, during an event for the freedom of captive Christians held in November 2020 by the ACN Foundation in Bogotá, Colombia, that for them, the situation was “painful.”

“It has been a very difficult time; to think that we have a kidnapped member, knowing that Gloria Cecilia is a woman of great commitment to the Church and to the cause of the poor,” Sr. Ibarra added.

Regarding the mission that Sr. Gloria had before being kidnapped in February 2017, Sr. Ibarra told ACN that in Karangasso, a place where women suffered the ravages of discrimination and poverty, the kidnapped nun “had a beautiful, wonderful project of commitment to women.”

In the area, only a minority of the population is Catholic and they maintain a good relationship with the Muslim majority, Sr. Rosa told ACN.

She recalled that Sr. Gloria established a literacy and women's promotion project in Karangasso, in which about 500 women, both Christian and Muslim, participated. She also cared for some 30 children in an orphanage and visited the sick.

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“We have lost a dynamic, committed, apostolic woman, and the community in Karangasso has lost her, where she carried out her mission with women,” Sr. Rosa said, regretting the four-year absence of Sr. Gloria.

She shared her own experiences with the kidnapped Nun’s project, saying, “I had the opportunity in 2015 to get to know the work that she started and accompanied.”

“To have a Christian, a Catholic, going through a kidnapping for her faith is a wound for the Church, and these wounds of the Church should hurt us as baptized. I believe we must raise our voice for the freedom of Gloria Cecilia,” Sr. Rosa said.

She went on to appeal for prayers for Sr. Gloria who she said was suffering and in ill health.

“We know that our Sister's condition is not the best. For the last four years she has been in the desert, alternating between 33 different camps of the jihadist group, and her health conditions are not the best because of this situation,” said Sr. Rosa.


She added, “We ask for prayers for our Sister, for the support that you can give us, because we need to raise the voice of freedom, not only for Gloria, but for all the kidnapped Catholics, for believers and non-believers in the world.”

Before she was kidnapped, Sr. Gloria had accomplished 12 years of mission in Africa, including her apostolate in Benin and in Mali.

ACN leadership has reported that the Colombian Nun had not been heard from since the video was released as proof of life by her kidnappers in September 2018, which also featured Pétronin, the French doctor she had been held captive with.

After her release, Sophie Prétonin reportedly spoke about Sr. Gloria's depressing situation. According to the Pontifical charity organization, the French doctor learned that she would be released in the early hours of 5 October 2020.

One of the two jihadists guarding the hostages told Prétonin, “Take your things, you're leaving”, ACN leadership says in the February 11 report shared with ACI Africa.

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Sr. Gloria, who was possibly next after the French doctor reportedly asked, “And me?”, to which the Jihadist replied, “You stay for later!”

Pétronin has appealed for help in rescuing Sr. Gloria saying, “Something must be done for my roommate, Gloria, because she is not well.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.