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Vicar General of Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese Reportedly Abducted by Separatist Fighters

Mgr. Julius Agbortoko, Vicar General of Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese abducted by separatist fighters on Sunday, 29 August 2021. Credit: Diocese of Mamfe/Facebook

The Vicar General of Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese has reportedly been abducted by separatist fighters operating in the Central African country’s troubled English-Speaking regions.

In a Monday, August 30 statement, the Chancellor of Mamfe Diocese announces the abduction, explains how the Catholic Priest was kidnapped, and the ransom the kidnappers are demanding.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I bring to your notice the sudden abduction of the Mgr. Julius Agbortoko, yesterday Sunday 29th August, 2021,” Fr. Sebastine Sinju says.

The Vicar General, Fr. Sinju explains, “had spent the weekend at Kokobuma for a pastoral visitation and the inauguration of the presbytery of the parish.”

Some 30 minutes after returning to his residence “yesterday at about a few minutes to 6pm,” the Chancellor narrates, “some young men who identified themselves as separatist fighters bumped into the Major Seminary compound and made their way straight to the residence of Bishop Lysinge. While there, they noticed the presence of the Vicar General whom they considered younger and stronger than the frail Bishop emeritus.”

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“The said boys who made off with Mgr. Julius Agbortoko at about 6:45 p.m. are asking for a ransom of over 20 million francs CFA,” Fr. Sinju reveals, an amount that comes to approximately US$36,000.00.

The Chancellor of the Cameroonian Diocese appeals for spiritual solidarity saying, “I call on all of you to invoke the One Family Spirit and pray unanimously for his safety and his subsequent release.”

Separatists have been operating in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, Southwest and Northwest, since 2016 when the Anglophone region plunged into crisis after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent.

The armed separatists who claim independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia have been responsible for abductions and attacks in the Anglophone regions. 

In May, Fr. Christopher Eboka, a member of the Clergy of Mamfe Diocese, was kidnapped by the separatists and freed after 10 days of captivity.

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Last November, the late Christian Cardinal Tumi was kidnapped by the separatists and freed the following day. Twelve other people, including the traditional Chief of the Nso tribe, Fon Sehm Mbinglo II, were kidnapped alongside the Cardinal.

The separatists were also responsible for the June 2019 abduction of the Archbishop emeritus of Bamenda, Cornelius Fontem Esua, and that of Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo Diocese in August 2019.

In his August 30 statement, Fr. Sinju laments the attacks that seem to target the Catholic Church and appeals for an end to the armed conflict.

“I use this opportunity to decry the seemingly incessant attacks on the Church in general and that of Mamfe in Particular,” the Cameroonian Priest says, and appeals, “Could the stakeholders of the ongoing armed conflict kindly hands off the Church, for God's sake.”

He implores, “May Mary, the Mother of Priests and the Queen of Peace intercede for us.”

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