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Recently Freed Malian Catholic Priest Attributes His Release to “chain of prayer”

Fr. León Dougnon. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

The Catholic Priest in Mali who was freed on July 13 after spending close to a month in captivity has, in a report, attributed his release to the series of prayers, including the Holy Rosary, which the people of God offered while he was being held by his abductors.

“Thanks to your prayers and blessings on every side, you now have me once again among you to continue with the mission of Jesus Christ,” Fr. León Dougnon says in the report that the Pontifical Foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), shared with ACI Africa Monday, July 26.

Fr. Dougnon who was addressing the faithful in the church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, Sévaré, some 12 km from Mopti town on July 18, the Sunday following his release has been quoted as saying, “I was lost, and have been found. I was dead, and I am alive again.”

“I did not think I would ever see you again”, the member of the Clergy of Mali’s Mopti Diocese has been quoted as saying in reference to the day he was kidnapped, on June 21, adding, “Ever since that day, you set in motion a chain of prayer.”

“Thank you again and again for everything you have done for me, for my family, for the family of the faithful. Thank you, thank you so much!”, Fr. Dougnon reiterated during his July 18 encounter with faithful after regaining freedom from his abductors.

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The Malian Catholic Priest had been alongside four other people in Mali’s Mopti Diocese on the morning of June 21. 

While the four abductees were freed on June 23, Fr. Dougnon, who serves as the Priest in charge of Ségué Parish of the Catholic Diocese of Mopti, remained in captivity for more than three weeks.

According to RFI, Fr. Dougnon’s abductors dropped him off the road between Mopti and Koro on July 13. He spent the night with a relative in a village near the town of Bandiagara in the Mopti region of Mali. 

In his address to the faithful July 18, the Priest has been quoted as underscoring the hand of God in his release.

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“Everything is the work of Grace; every one of you, through the Rosary and other prayers, called upon God our Liberator,” he said, and added, “May Almighty God, the Lord of all things and the Lord of our lives, bless you abundantly with holiness and goodness.”

He went on to invite his compatriots to pray “for a more fraternal and united Mali”.

In a message to ACN, the Catholic Priest is said to have expressed his gratitude to “the benefactors of ACN for their prayers,” ACN officials say in their report shared with ACI Africa.

He also asked everyone to continue praying for Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argot, the Colombian Catholic Nun who was kidnapped by jihadists in Southern Mali on 7 February 2017.

Earlier this month, the member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate asked for "a great deal of prayers" to regain her freedom. 

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In a message received by her brother Edgar Narváez Argoti, Sr. Gloria reportedly said that she is now being held hostage by a different Islamist group from the one that abducted her.

“I send everyone my warmest greetings. May the good Lord bless them and grant them health. I have been held prisoner for four years, and now I am with a new group”, Sr. Gloria wrote in the message, which ACN cited in a July 9 report.  

The 57-year-old Franciscan Sister added, “May they all pray a great deal for me. May God bless them all. I am hopeful that God will help me to regain my freedom. Your loving sister, Gloria.”

The West African nation with a population of 19.66 million people has reportedly experienced an increase in violence involving both civilians and the military since 2012. Since then, kidnappings have become more persistent in the country with militants seeking to exert political pressure or get ransoms.

The attacks orchestrated by independent militia and jihadists linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, as well as inter-communal violence, have left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. 

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The violence has spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.