Kidnapped priests in Cameroon appeal for help

Mission work

Courtesy of Aid for the Church in Need

Ahead of Saturday’s Mission Day in Dunkeld Diocese, Vicar Episcopal Fr Mike Freyne called for prayers for five priests and a nun who were abducted in Cameroon in the past month. All are from the diocese of Mamfe where Fr Mike worked during his training for the priesthood.

Fr Mike told Dunkeld News, “A video has just emerged on social media showing the five Catholic Priests, a Catholic Nun and three others Kidnapped in Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese pleading with their Local Ordinary to secure their release.”

Reports from the area in September 16, say that unidentified gunmen attacked St Mary’s Catholic Nchang Parish of Mamfe Diocese in Cameroon during which nine people were abducted and buildings in the Parish premises, including the church, razed. 

The attackers kidnapped Fr Elias Okorie, Fr Barnabas Ashu, Fr Cornelius Jingwa, Fr Job Francis Nwobegu, Fr. Emmanuel Asaba, Sr Jacinta C. Udeagha, Mr Nkem Patrick Osang (Assisting Catechist), Ms Blanche Bright, and Mme Kelechukwu.

In the 45 sec video circulated Wednesday, October 19, one of the abductees, Fr. Jingwa provides updates about their welfare and pleads with Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo to do “everything possible” to secure their release. So far it has not been easy. If you look at us, you will see our faces are very dismal, very unhappy,” Fr Jingwa says.

He adds, “It is quite difficult and we are only begging My Lord that you do everything possible to get us out of here. It is a matter of do or die,” the Catholic Priest laments.

He continues, “You see for example, I have been very sick, my brothers too are not feeling fine at all.”

“Please kindly, My Lord, help get us out of here. Do whatever it takes to listen to this voice and do what they ask of you. Thank you,” Fr Jingwa says in the video.

“Those who abducted these people and set the church ablaze are only asking for ransom,” Archbishop Nkea said, and added, “They are demanding 100,000 USD and they have been arguing and coming down. They are somewhere around 50,000 USD but we don’t have even a dollar to pay for this kind of thing.”

According to Archbishop Nkea, the abductors who claim to be Separatists fighters, “See the Church as a soft target to be able to make money.”

“But the Church has no money to pay ransom,” the Local Ordinary of Bamenda who started his Episcopal Ministry in Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese as Coadjutor Bishop in August 2013 told ACI Africa. 

The Cameroonian Catholic Archbishop further said that the abductors “are claiming that the Church has not been supporting the struggle for independence by Separatists fighters and so they want money.”

“We have tried to explain to all those who have always tried to abduct ministers of the Church that the Church cannot be paying ransom to separatists fighters or to criminals,” the Catholic Church leader who was appointed Archbishop in December 2019, and installed as Local Ordinary of Bamenda Archdiocese in February 2020 said.

The arson attack on St. Mary’s Catholic Nchang Parish is one of the latest incidents in the protracted conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking North West and the South West regions. The conflict was sparked by a protest involving lawyers and teachers in 2016. 

An armed separatists’ movement claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia emerged following the government’s crackdown on the protests.

English speakers make up around 20 percent of Cameroon’s population and have long complained about being marginalized by the French-speaking ruling class.