A truckload of attackers kidnapped two Catholic priests from their rectory in Sudan on Jan. 15, causing fears for their safety at a time of continued regional tensions.
The attack took place at St. Josephine Bakhita’s Catholic Church in the town of Rabak, south of Khartoum. The perpetrators, who arrived in a large truck, smashed through the gates of the parish compound and broke down the rectory door.
The victims of the kidnapping are Fr. Joseph Makwey, who is in his 40s, and Fr. Sylvester Mogga, who is in his mid-thirties, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
The assailants also looted the property, taking electronics and valuables like laptops and other computer equipment.
The two priests’ whereabouts are still unknown.
“We are worried about the two priests,” said Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum.
Fr. Sylvester, though he is young, is “sick and in need of medical help,” the bishop reported.
The police have been notified and investigations are at an early stage.
It is impossible to speculate on the identity of the kidnappers and their motives, Bishop Adwok stated. However, he feared the priests may be conscripted to fight amid reports of internal conflicts in Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan.
The abduction seemed deliberate, he said.
“The kidnappers would have known that these men were priests.”
Bishop Adwok, who lives in the town of Kosti, which is close to Rabak, said that across Sudan militants are intimidating people originally from what is now South Sudan and pressuring them to leave.
“The abduction of young men has frightened practically everybody here,” he added.
The bishop criticized the Sudanese government for appearing dismissive towards the kidnappings and saying that the abductors are foreigners who cannot be controlled.
“Innocent people are not there to be brutalized and the authorities must be called to account for what is going on,” he said. “It is not only in Kosti that this is happening. It is also taking place in Khartoum.”
Meanwhile, tensions continue between Sudan and South Sudan, which officially became a new country on July 9, 2011. South Sudan’s oil minister has accused Sudan of stealing 120,000 barrels of its oil a day.
Tribal violence also continues to be a problem. On Jan. 16, 47 people were killed by a South Sudanese tribe that itself had been targeted in a massive ethnic assault, the Associated Press reports.