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Nigerian Catholic Priest Regains Freedom “barely 24 hours after his kidnap”

Fr. Benson Bulus Luka, freed Tuesday, 14 September 2021 after 24hours in captivity in Nigeria’s Kafanchan Diocese. Credit: Kafanchan Diocese

The Nigerian Catholic Priest who was kidnapped from his Parish residence in the Diocese of Kafanchan on Monday, September 13 has been freed.

“With hearts filled with joy, we raise our voices in a symphony of praises as we announce the return of our Priest, Rev. Fr. Benson Bulus Luka,” the Chancellor of Kafanchan Diocese, Fr. Emmanuel Uchechukwu, says in a statement shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, September 15.

“Fr. Benson was abducted by armed persons from his residence at St. Matthew's Parish Anchuna, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area, Kaduna State, on Monday 13 September, 2021,” Fr. Uchechukwu says, and adds, “Barely 24 hours after his kidnap, our beloved brother priest was released by his abductors.”

The Chancellor of the Nigerian Diocese that is within the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaduna in Central Northern Nigeria expresses gratitude to all who offered prayers for the quick and safe release of the Priest.

“We want to thank all those that have offered prayers and entreaties for the quick release of our Brother Priest and others who are still in the dens of their kidnappers,” Fr. Uchechukwu says, and adds, “We pray to God to hasten the release of those who are still in the hands of their Captors.”

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In his statement shared with ACI Africa, the Nigerian Cleric goes on to direct “all our Priests to kindly celebrate Mass of THANKSGIVING to God for the quick and safe release of our Brother, Fr. Benson.”

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for us and all those that are still in captivity,” the Chancellor of Kafanchan Diocese implores.

Fr. Luka was abducted from his residence at St. Matthew's Catholic Church, Anchuna, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, the Chancellor of Kafanchan Diocese announced in a statement issued September 14.

Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when Boko Haram insurgency began with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Since then, the group, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups as well as civilians.

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The insecurity situation in the country has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.

The latest abduction and release of Fr. Benson Bulus Luka follows a series of other kidnappings of members of the Clergy in Africa’s most populous nation.

In April, gunmen kidnapped Fr. Izu Marcel Onyeocha, a member of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians). He was later freed.

In May, St. Vincent Ferrer Malunfashi Catholic Parish of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese was attacked and two Priests kidnapped. One of them, Fr. Alphonsus Bello, the 33-year-old Fidei Donum Priest incardinated in Nigeria’s Kaduna Archdiocese, was killed; the other Priest, Fr. Joe Keke, 75, was later released.

In July, a Priest serving in Nigeria’s Maiduguri Diocese, Fr. Elijah Juma Wada, was abducted and later escaped after spending nine days with his abductors.

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Last month, Catholic Bishops in Nigeria decried the rise in cases of abductions, killings, and property destruction, calling upon the government to “take full responsibility for the present culture of violence.”

“Deaths in the hands of kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandits, terrorist groups have made Nigeria one of the most terrorized countries in the world,” members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said in their August 26 statement.

While recognizing the efforts being made by relevant authorities to tackle insecurity in the West African nation, the Catholic Church leaders underscored the need for Muhammadu Buhari-led government “to show more strategic commitment and sincerity in this fight and take full responsibility for the present culture of violence and impunity in the country.”

“The Government must be balanced and seen to be so in its response to the challenges of insecurity in every segment of the citizenry,” the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria said in their communiqué following their August 19-27 second Plenary Assembly held in Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese.