Catholic Foundation Concerned about Missing Priest Championing Religious Cohesion in Mali

Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre during a conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Bamako Mali. Credit: ACN

For over 30 years, Fr. Hans-Joachim Lohre has been a keen champion of religious cohesion in Mali, Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has said, expressing “pain and concern” over the November 20 disappearance of the Catholic Missionary Priest in a suspected kidnapping incident by jihadists.

In a Wednesday, November 23 report, ACN highlights Fr. Hans-Joachim’s deep commitment to inter-religious dialogue in Mali and recalls how the member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) has also, for long, been the foundation’s contact person in the West African nation.

“The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expresses its pain and concern over the disappearance and likely kidnapping of missionary Hans-Joachim Lohre – or Ha-Jo, as he is known – in Bamako, the capital of Mali, where he has worked for over thirty years,” ACN says in the report.

It adds, “The German priest went missing on Sunday, November 20, after celebrating mass in a convent of nuns in the same city, according to sources from the White Fathers, as the Missionaries of Africa congregation is known.”

There is no more information regarding the disappearance, ACN notes, and adds, “But everything points to a kidnapping, since the missionary’s car was found abandoned and the cross he always carried with him was on the ground. However, nothing is known about who took him, or why.”


Fr. Hans-Joachim, also known among his friends as Ha-Jo, was an important reference person for interreligious dialogue, teaching at the Institute of Christian-Islamic Education.

ACN notes that the missing German Priest had taken part in several events hosted by the Pontifical charity foundation.

The Catholic foundation recalls that during a visit to Switzerland, less than six months ago, Fr. Hans-Joachim is said to have expressed his fear concerning the religious extremism in Mali, saying, “The jihadists come in groups, on motorcycles, and the local communities have to make deals with them. They are forbidden from ringing church bells and drinking alcohol, and women are forced to wear the veil”.

ACN has called attention several times to the situation endured by Christians in the country, namely in Central Mali, where the Katiba Macina jihadist group, linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), operates.

The member of the Missionaries of Africa, the foundation reports, “was well aware of the danger he faced in his work every day.”

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Highlighting the targeting of foreigners in the embattled country, specifically, Fr. Hans-Joachim once said, “You don’t know when, or where it might happen. As white Europeans, we are easy targets, and we have been told that the jihadists are watching us.”

In several interviews with ACN, however, the Missionary Priest explained why the imminent danger did not keep him from remaining in the country. 

He has been quoted as saying, “The question is given to us in the Gospel, ‘who do you say I am?’, that is the meaning of our lives, and we see that what is important is not how long we live, or how little or how much we achieve, but whether what we do has meaning and can make the world a better place”.

Over the past three years, ACN has supported over 70 projects in Mali, among them a four-year training and awareness program for evangelization agents, which covers the meetings organized by the Islamic-Christian Training Institute, in cooperation with Fr. Hans-Joachim.

The charity foundation describes Fr. Hans-Joachim was a Priest who was “very conscious of the importance of his own mission, to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims.”


This, the Priest did through education in Islamic studies of laypeople and of religion.

Understanding the need for good relations between Christians and Muslims, especially in countries experiencing religious extremism, the Priest told ACN, “At the moment there are very strong fundamentalist currents in Mali, but most people just want to live in peace. Therefore, it is crucial that we foster good relations with the Muslims around us.”

“We provide Christians with deep knowledge about Islam, so that when they return to their communities, they can help to build bridges and make contact with the surrounding mosques”, he explained during a visit to the international headquarters of ACN in Germany.

In the November 23 report, ACN says that news of the kidnapping of Fr. Hans-Joachim is alarming and is “a sign of the deteriorating living conditions for the Christian community in this African country.”

“We ask all our benefactors and friends to pray for the immediate release of father Ha-Jo. He was a builder of peace in a context of violence and terrorism. Our foundation supported his mission over the past few years, and now he needs our prayers and solidarity,” says Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN.

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He adds, “We extend our support to his spiritual family, to the congregation of the Missionaries of Africa, and to Hans-Joachim Lohre’s family in Germany. You can count on our prayers.” 

The ACN official adds, “Besides prayers, ACN also calls on the international community to do everything it can to improve the situation caused by jihadists among the populations of the Sahel, not only in Mali, but also in neighbouring countries.”

“What is happening is a tragedy, an open wound for the world,” Heine-Geldern says in the November 23 ACN report.

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.