Murdered Seminarian’s Colleagues in Nigeria Named Religious Freedom Award Recipients

Credit: ACN

Two Nigerian Seminarians who survived the 2020 kidnapping in which their companion Michael Nnadi was killed have been named recipients of the 2023 Religious Freedom Award organized by the Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International.

The charity foundation announced the winners on Wednesday, September 27, saying that the award ceremony will take place on October 5 in Madrid, Spain.

The award recognizes Seminarians Stephen Amos and Pius Tabat who, ACN notes, survived “a dramatic kidnapping…that would end dramatically with the murder of Michael Nnadi.”

The two Seminarians were kidnapped together with Nnadi and a fourth companion on 8 January 2020 at the Good Shepherd Seminary, in the Diocese of Kaduna.

On the evening of the abduction, gunmen, disguised in military camouflage, broke through the fence surrounding the seminary that hosted 268 students and opened fire.


Ten days after the abduction, one of the four seminarians was found on the side of a road, alive but seriously injured. The release of Seminarians Stephen and Pius was announced on 31 January 2020, but Nnadi remained missing. The death of the youngest of the four, then aged 18, was reported on 1 February 2020.

Seminarian Pius recalled his experience in the hands of the abductors, noting that they were flogged every day, made to sing and dance for their captors, and fed from a dirty container. The Seminarians were also psychologically tormented every day, and reminded that they would be killed if a ransom was not paid for their release.

The kidnapped Seminarians remained blindfolded from daybreak to late in the evening, Pius said in a webinar that ACN organized in March this year.

The three were not supposed to lie down even when having a backache, he said, and explained, “In all that, we were still being flogged and you would not know who was flogging you.”

“These people kept flogging us every day without pity. In the evening, they would tell us to moo like cows, or bleat like goats just for their amusement,” the Nigerian Seminarian narrated. 

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After one of the four Seminarians was freed in a critical condition, the three decided to engage in a collective Novena prayer to give each other hope and encouragement. 

“Every week before our release, we started a collective kind of novena prayer, where every person would lead for three days, one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory be to the Father, and then followed by some encouragements,” he recalled, and added, “Seminarian Nnadi did not finish his shift; he was killed on the second day he was supposed to lead the prayers.”

He described the night that Nnadi was killed as one of the longest in his life, saying, “When morning came, they gave us phones to call our parents and bid them goodbye before they kill us. We did and went back to the tent living our lives in the hands of God.”

Almost four years later, Seminarians Stephen and Amos are set to be honored in Spain in an event that ACN says also seeks to be an alert to the lack of religious freedom in many countries around the world.

“In fact, freedom of worship, considered a fundamental human right, does not exist or is at risk in around a third of all countries in the world,” ACN says in the September 27 report, and adds, “This situation greatly affects the Christian community, which is the most persecuted.”


“It is estimated that more than 570 million Christians live in countries where religious freedom is violated. However, despite the magnitude of these numbers, the truth is that society seems to ignore this reality,” the charity foundation says.

The campaign, “You have the right to believe”, that ACN launched in Spain, seeks to raise public awareness of the need to bear in mind the importance of defending religious freedom. 

Speaking at the launch, the Director of communications at the Spanish Secretariat of the ACN Foundation, Raquel Martín, lamented that a significant percentage of the world’s population does not enjoy religious freedom.

“We have the right to believe in God in freedom, without impositions, without discrimination, without persecution, but more than half of the world's population suffers unfair attacks on their religious freedom,” Raquel said.

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.