, 11 February, 2020 / 4:35 AM
The Catholic Church in the West African nation of Mali last Friday, February 7 offered special prayers for the safe release of Columbian-born Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, who was kidnapped by jihadists in southern Mali the same date three years ago.
The special prayers including the celebration of Holy Mass were organized in all the nine parishes of Mali’s Sikasso Diocese in the South of the country, the people of God imploring God for the safety of Sr. Gloria, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate who was abducted on February 7, 2017 reportedly by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (SGIM), a branch of Al Qaeda based in the Mali.
Bishop Jean-Baptiste Tiama of Sikasso diocese recounted that the Colombian nun was following the news on television in their living room in the convent together with her two companions when a group of armed men arrived at around 9:30 p.m. on February 7, 2017.
“They claimed they were jihadists and left with Sr. Gloria who was in charge of the community, after forcibly recovering her identity papers,” Bishop Tiama recounted the events that took place in the parish of Karangasso where the Colombian nun ministered.
The Franciscan sisters have been supporting the parish of Karangasso for several years in the social areas such as health, orphanage and women's promotion, as well as in pastoral ministry.
The attackers took four computers and the ambulance from the dispensary, which they later abandoned 5 km from the parish and continued their journey on a motorbike towards Koury, near the border with Burkina Faso.
On December 13, 2017, the General Directorate of State Security (DGSE), a unit of Mali's security services, announced the arrest of four "suspected terrorists" involved in the kidnapping of Sr. Gloria.
An emergency plan of action had been put in place by the Episcopal Conference of Mali since 2018 in order to disseminate a message to all the media organs throughout the West African nation, advocating for the release of Sr Gloria.
In January 2019, a video message from Sr. Gloria, reportedly created by two local Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations, appeals for the help of Pope Francis to secure her release, Catholic News Agency reported.
According to Al Akhbar agency that published the contents of the video, the video recording, not released, was 4:44 minutes and in it, “the Colombian hostage pleads with the Pope of the Vatican to intervene to free her.”
The video was meant to prove that Sr. Gloria, kidnapped at the age of 55, is still alive.
General Fernando Murillo, a Colombian detective in charge of the investigation, announced in January 2019 that the Holy See will mediate for her release.
“The Pope is aware of what Colombia is doing and to what point we've come to obtain her release,” the General was quoted as saying and added that the Colombian police were in contact with the Catholic Church in Mali to expedite negotiations for Sr. Gloria’s release.
The General also disclosed that the abduction had been done for ransom purposes and that did not know the exact amount that the kidnappers were asking for the release of the nun.
He further expressed concern about the nun's health saying, “She is alive but her state of health is not good. She has problems with her leg and her kidney.”
At the end of the video, the abductors were reportedly proposing “to negotiate through independent charitable organizations outside the colonialist force.”
With her Colombian founded religious congregation administering a large health center in Mali and a home where some 30 young orphans are attended to, Sr. Gloria had served in the West African nation for 12 years at the time of her abduction.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa