ABUJA, Nigeria, May 30, 2022 (Morning Star News) – Abductions of Christian church leaders continued in northern Nigeria with the kidnapping of two Roman Catholic priests last week and two other clergymen earlier this month in Katsina state, sources said.
The kidnapping early on Wednesday (May 25) of priests Stephen Ojapah and Oliver Okpara, along with two parishioners from the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Gidan Maikambo, Kafur County, followed the abduction of an evangelical pastor three weeks earlier in the state, residents told Morning Star News.
Gunmen broke into the rectory after midnight, said the Rev. Chris Omotosho, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, in a statement.
“The parish priest and his assistant, the Rev. Oliver Okpara, and two boys in the house were kidnapped,” Omotosho said. “No information as to their whereabouts. Fr. Ojapah is a priest of my congregation, the Missionary Society of St. Paul, and a very close friend of mine. Please keep him, his assistant and the two boys kidnapped in your prayers.”
On May 8, the Rev. Matthew Moses of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) was kidnapped, said James Saleh, coordinator of Evangelical Missionary Society of the ECWA.
“Another missionary, Matthew Moses, serving in Katsina state, northwest Nigeria, was kidnapped on Sunday, 8 May,” Saleh said in a statement. “Kindly pray for divine intervention for his release along with others.”
Gabriel Michael, a resident of Katsina state, told Morning Star News that persecution has become commonplace for Christians in the state.
“Katsina state is currently under the firm grip of Islamic terrorists,” Michael said in a text message. “They invade churches and Christian communities at will, and nothing has been done by the authorities to end these invasions.”
Muslim terrorists have taken over the areas of Kafur, Zango, Kurfi, Baure, Bindawa, Danja, Ingawa and Kankara, he said.
“Any Christian kidnapped in these areas can never be rescued,” he said. “Even local government areas like Katsina, Daura, Malumfashi, Dutsin-Ma, and Jibiya which many consider to be relatively safer, are dangerous zone for Christians in Katsina sate. Villages in these areas are Islamic terrorist enclaves.”
On May 19, a priest with the Anglican Church in Katsina, the Ven. Yohanna Haruna, was kidnapped from his church by armed terrorists, according to the general secretary of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
In Zaria, Kaduna state, a priest kidnapped in March was freed on May 3. The Rev. Felix Zakari Fidson of St. Ann’s Catholic Church had been taken away at gunpoint on March 24 from from Zangon Tama.
Killings in Bauchi State
In northeastern Nigeria’s Bauchi state, three Christians were killed in an attack in Tafawa Balewa County on May 9, sources said.
Ahmed Wakil, a spokesman for the Bauchi State Police Command, identified the victims as Samaila Bello, Kefas Sarki (Cephas Tserki, according to an area resident) and Paulina Alhamdu.
“We received a distress call on May 9 at about 21:30 hours that some armed with AK-47 rifles stormed the Num area of Sara village,” Wakil said. “They opened fire on members of the community causing the death of three persons, while two others, Gode Bulus and Zakka Mayo [Zaka Matthew, according an area resident] were injured.”
Area resident Joel Muntsira said Muslim terrorists invaded the village, killed three Christians and wounded five others: Maryamu Yakubu, Naomi Taos, Yelwa Bala, Gode Bulus and Zaka Matthew.
Esther Damion, a resident of Tafawa Balewa, told Morning Star News that it appears the international community has forgotten Christians facing persecution in northern Nigeria.
“The world has completely forgotten about terrorist attacks and invasions of Christian communities in Nigeria,” she said in a text message. “Christians die here as a result of terrorist attacks, but the world is silent over these atrocities against us.”
Ga’Allah Daniel, president of the Zaar Youth Development Association, is from the area.
“We experienced a series of attacks on our people during farming season last year, and now that this year’s farming season is setting in, we have started witnessing it again with this present attack,” Daniel said.
In the city of Bauchi, five Christians were killed in related attacks in April, area residents said. A group of Muslims on April 22 invaded the home of a Christian couple holding a “send-forth” prayer meeting for their daughter, who was to be wedded the next day, and killed two Christians in attendance, said area resident Emmanuel Habakkuk.
“A Muslim mob invaded the prayer program, attacked Christians at the event, and shot to death two of them,” Habakkuk said. “The incident took place in the home of a Christian, Mr. Ezra Yari, the father of the bride.”
Five days after the attack on the home in the Gudun Hausawa area of the city, Muslims on April 27 attacked Christians at the funeral of the two slain Christians, killing three more Christians, he said.
“Three more Christians were killed during the funeral of the two Christians killed five days earlier at a send-forth prayer program,” Habakkuk said. “This is aside from houses of Christians in the area that were destroyed and set ablaze.”
The Rev. Abraham Damina Dimeus, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bauchi State Chapter, confirmed the attacks in a press statement.
“Let’s be prayerful and leave vengeance to God,” Dimeus said. “I know that we’re facing pressure from terrorists and Muslim mobs who have been attacking our communities, but please remain calm as we have presented our plight to the government and are asking authorities to act towards protecting us.”
State police spokesman Wakil confirmed the two attacks. He identified the two Christians slain on April 22 as Gift Felix, 17, and Shalon Memdir, 18, both of Gudun Hausawa.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.
Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.
In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.
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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
Photo courtesy: ©Catholic Diocese of Sokoto/Morning Star News