Four religious sisters who were kidnapped while on their way to Mass Aug. 21 have been released, according to their order. 

Sisters Johannes Nwodo, Christabel Echemazu, Liberata Mbamalu, and Benita Agu were kidnapped Aug. 21 in Nigeria’s Imo state, located in the south of the country. 

After two days of seeking “intense prayer” for their “quick and safe release,” the Sisters of Jesus the Saviour announced the abductees’ “unconditional and safe release” in a statement Aug. 23. 

“Today is a memorable day for us, therefore, we wish to share this joy with all men and women of Goodwill who in one way or the other have contributed to the quick and safe release of our dear sisters,” the statement reads. 

The Sisters of Jesus the Saviour is a Nigerian order that cares for the poor, elderly, and sick. The order did not provide any details about who may have perpetrated the kidnapping. 

Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent years, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens. 

Priests, in particular, are often kidnapped and held for ransom. On July 11, the Nigerian Diocesan Catholic Priests Association issued a statement about the attacks, saying, “it is really sad that in the course of their normal pastoral activities, priests have become an endangered species.”

Most recently, in July, Father John Mark Cheitnum and Father Denatus Cleopas were abducted at the rectory of Christ the King Catholic Church in the town of Lere in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna State. Cleopas was released, but Cheitnum was killed in brutal fashion.  |

Security expert David Otto, director of the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies, based in Geneva, Switzerland, told CNA in July that the consensus of security experts in his group is that the Catholic Church is being targeted because it has been paying the steep ransoms the terrorists have demanded, which can be as high as $200,000, or more.