JOS, Nigeria, May 14, 2021 (Morning Star News) – Suspected Fulani herdsmen have demanded 30 million naira (US$73,600) for the release of a Pentecostal church pastor they kidnapped in southwestern Nigeria on Monday night (May 10), according to a local report.
Pastor Otamayomi Ogedengbe of Deeper Life Bible Church was taken away at gunpoint from a Bible study at his church site in Akure, Ondo state, shortly after 8:30 p.m., his wife said.
“The armed men shot their way into the church’s building where the program was being held and took him away with a gun pointed at his head,” she told Morning Star News by phone.
The family did not hear from the assailants for days, but Sahara Reporters reported on Thursday (May 13) that the kidnappers had made contact with the family and insisted that the ransom demand was non-negotiable.
Church member Victor Charles said the kidnappers were herdsmen who entered while the pastor was leading a Bible study.
“The herdsmen entered into the church’s auditorium and went straight to Pastor Ogendengbe, who was preaching from the altar,” he told Morning Star News by text message. “They ordered us to lie down on the floor while taking away the pastor.”
Police spokesman Tee Leo lkoro of the Ondo State Command confirmed the abduction.
“Pastor Otamayomi Ogedengbe was abducted by some gunmen who stormed his church and whisked him away,” he said. “The police command in Ondo state has sent out its personnel and detectives to work towards securing the release of the pastor. We’re optimistic that pastor Ogendengbe will be rescued by our security agents.”
The denomination is a ministry of Deeper Life Christian Ministry, with its international headquarters in Lagos. The ministry and denomination were established in 1973 and have a global membership of more than 1 million people. The denomination is rated as the third-fastest growing church in the world.
Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List report. In the 2021 list of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.
In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list. Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to the report.
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
The APPG report noted that tribal loyalties cannot be overlooked.
“In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, was elected president of Nigeria,” the group reported. “He has done virtually nothing to address the behavior of his fellow tribesmen in the Middle Belt and in the south of the country.”
The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.
In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”
On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.
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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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