Four nuns abducted in latest blow to Nigeria’s beleaguered Christians

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ROME – Unidentified gunmen abducted four nuns in Nigeria’s Imo State on Sunday, making the nuns the latest victims in a string of kidnappings plaguing the West African country, many of which target the Catholic community.

The kidnapping, which happened on Sunday as the sisters were on their way to mass, was announced by their order, the Sisters of Jesus the Savior, in a news bulletin on Monday.


In the note, the order’s general secretary, Sister Zita Ihedoro, said “it is with great pain that we bring to your attention the kidnapping of four of our sisters.”

Ihedoro said the abduction happened as the sisters traveled from Rivers State in Nigeria to Imo State for a Mass of thanksgiving for another member of their congregation.

“We implore intense prayer for their speedy and safe release,” she said.

Known as the “Saviourite Sisters”, the congregation was founded in 1985 in the Diocese of Port Harcour, located in Rivers State, Southern Nigeria, and their work is primarily devoted to the care of sick and suffering, especially the handicapped, the poor, the elderly and the abandoned.

The four nuns who were taken are Sisters Johannes Nwodo, Christabel Echemazu, Liverata Mbamalu and Benita Agu.

Their abduction came just nine days after gunmen abducted a Catholic priest and a seminarian who was also traveling between Imo and Rivers states. The men were later released by their captors.

In a tweet publicizing the kidnapping, Alessandro Monteduro, director of the pontifical aid organization Aid to the Church in Need, contextualized the incident as part of “an ongoing dripping of violence” in Nigeria. and asked the national authorities for “a concrete commitment for their release”. .”

Speaking about the kidnapping of the sisters, the Auxiliary Bishop of Minna in Nigeria’s Niger State, Luka Sylvester Gopep said Fides News that “Sadly the situation in our beloved Nigeria is not improving, but we still look to the future with trust in God”.

In recent years, so-called “extortion kidnappings” have become common in Nigeria, and they increasingly target members of the Catholic Church, primarily the clergy.

According to the Protestant watchdog group Open Doors International, Nigeria is currently ranked second only to Pakistan in terms of daily violence against Christians.

In 2020, some 3,305 Nigerians were persecuted for their Christian faith. In the first six months of 2022, more than 20 Catholic priests have been kidnapped and, in some cases, killed.

While some of these kidnappings are religiously motivated, most are sources of revenue for criminal groups that target the Catholic Church because it is seen as a large institution with deep pockets, and therefore would be willing to pay ransoms for the release of his people.

Nigeria’s population of just under 216 million is roughly evenly split between Christians and Muslims, so Christians are not a minority in the country. However, they have also been targeted by jihadist groups who will kill their captives, rather than demand ransoms, as they oppose the Christian presence in Nigeria.

In the Middle Belt of Nigeria, Christians are increasingly victims of violence unleashed by Fulani herders, mostly Muslims, who attack Christian villages and drive them out of town in an attempt to seize their lands to make them graze.

According to the African Center for Strategic Studies, there have been more than 15,000 deaths since 2010 as a result of violence between farmers and herders over land use, with most of the violence concentrated in West Africa and central.

Nigeria has been a particular hotspot, with around half of their casualties after 2018.

While the ultimate motives for Fulani carnage are economic, the violence is often exacerbated by ethnic, cultural and religious elements, opening the door for extremist groups to both instrumentalize and inflame the conflict to develop their own business.

The Nigerian government has pledged in recent months to devote significant resources to the protection of Christians.

Presidential elections in Nigeria are slated for early next year, and given the rise in kidnappings across Nigeria, security is likely to be a major electoral issue as it approaches, with past government failures weighing heavily on the minds of voters.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen



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