The archbishop told Dajo: “You did not allow the sad incident to demoralize you as you continued your spiritual and pastoral activities to the surprise of the perpetrators of such an evil.”
Kidnappings of Catholics end up hurting the poor, the archbishop said, citing the Church's spiritual and charitable work.
“Whatever may be the motive of the kidnappers, monetary or sheer intimidation, it should be clear to those engaged in such nefarious activities that the Catholic Church brings good news to the poor through huge sacrifices,” Kaigama said.
“She complements the government’s efforts through her selfless social, educational and medical services to the needy, so molesting the Church is molesting the needy,” said the archbishop. “Whatever the Catholic Church has and does, is for the good of all, irrespective of religious, ethnic or political differences.”
His remarks follow another major kidnapping, with 344 schoolboys abducted from the Government Science Secondary School in the town of Kankara in the northwestern Nigerian state of Katsina. The boys were held for six days in the vast Rugu forest before their rescue by security forces Dec. 17, Reuters reports.
On Dec. 15, the Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction attack, but its involvement is debated by some experts.
Speaking on behalf of all kidnapping victims, Kaigama said “We pray for the release of those who are still in captivity and for the conversion of the perpetrators of this inhuman act... May Christ manifest himself to the perpetrators of such evil actions as kidnapping, rape, killings, et cetera, and grant them a change of heart.”
Other clergy have faced abductions in the last two months.
On Dec. 27 in southwest Nigeria's Owerri archdiocese, Auxiliary Bishop Moses Chikwe and his driver were kidnapped and released a few days later unharmed and without ransom. Chikwe had served for several years as a priest in the Diocese of San Diego and received a master's degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and his PhD in education at UCLA.
Another priest, Father Valentine Ezeagu of the Congregation of Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy, was kidnapped in mid-December in the southeastern Imo State while traveling to his father's funeral in Anambra state. Four armed men came out of the bush and forced him into the back of his car.
Kidnappings of Catholics in Nigeria are an ongoing problem that not only affects priests and seminarians, but also lay faithful, Kaigama said at a virtual event on persecuted Christians Nov. 25.
“We have cases of abductions, detentions, and killings by terrorist groups, criminal herdsmen, bandits, and gangs of kidnappers to contend with,” he said.
(Story continues below)
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That previous week, he said, there was a kidnapping of five children, all siblings, behind a parish house in the Abuja archdiocese. The next day, a woman preparing for her wedding was kidnapped. They had not been found as of Nov. 25.
The Islamist group Boko Haram is behind many of the abductions. The group became infamous for the April 2014 abduction of some 300 mostly Christian schoolgirls from Chibok. ] That mass abduction prompted the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign that drew support from world leaders including then-First Lady Michelle Obama.
On Nov. 28 Islamist militants massacred at least 110 farmers and beheaded an estimated 30 people in Nigeria’s northeast Borno State. Local anti-jihadist militia initially told Agence France Presse that Boko Haram operates in the area and frequently attacks farmers. Boko Haram later admitted to killing the farmers in retaliation for their cooperation with the government.
The Islamic State West Africa Province had also been named as a possible perpetrator of the massacre.
More than 12,000 Christians in Nigeria have been killed in Islamist attacks since June 2015, according to a 2020 report by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, a Nigerian human rights organization.
The same report found that 600 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first five months of 2020.