Catholic diocese rejoices as priest is freed barely 24 hours after kidnapping

Fr. Benson Bulus Luka was kidnapped from his parish residence in Nigeria’s Kafanchan diocese on Sept. 13, 2021. / Kafanchan Diocese

Kafanchan, Nigeria, Sep 16, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).

A Nigerian Catholic priest kidnapped at his parish residence on Monday has been freed.

The priest’s liberation was announced on Sept. 15 by Fr. Emmanuel Uchechukwu, chancellor of Kafanchan diocese, in northern Nigeria, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

“With hearts filled with joy, we raise our voices in a symphony of praises as we announce the return of our priest, Rev. Fr. Benson Bulus Luka,” Uchechukwu said.

“Fr. Benson was abducted by armed persons from his residence at St. Matthew’s Parish Anchuna, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area, Kaduna State, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.”

“Barely 24 hours after his kidnap, our beloved brother priest was released by his abductors.”

Uchechukwu, chancellor of the diocese within the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaduna, thanked those who had prayed for the priest’s release.

“We want to thank all those that have offered prayers and entreaties for the quick release of our brother priest and others who are still in the dens of their kidnappers,” he said.

“We pray to God to hasten the release of those who are still in the hands of their captors.”

Uchechukwu encouraged priests to celebrate Masses of thanksgiving following Fr. Luka’s release.

“May Our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for us and all those that are still in captivity,” he added.

Fr. Luka’s abduction was announced on Sept. 14.

Nigeria has experienced rising insecurity since 2009, when Boko Haram, one of Africa’s largest Islamist groups, launched an insurgency seeking to turn Africa’s most populous country into an Islamic state.

The group has orchestrated indiscriminate terrorist attacks on numerous targets, including religious and political groups, as well as civilians.

The situation has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani Militia, who have clashed frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.

Fr. Luka’s release follows a series of other kidnappings of Nigerian clergy.

In April, gunmen seized Fr. Izu Marcel Onyeocha, a member of the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Claretians). He was later freed.

In May, two priests were kidnapped at St. Vincent Ferrer Malunfashi Catholic parish in Sokoto diocese. One of them, Fr. Alphonsus Bello, a 33-year-old Fidei Donum priest incardinated in Nigeria’s Kaduna archdiocese, was killed. The other, 75-year-old Fr. Joe Keke, was later released.

In July, Fr. Elijah Juma Wada, a priest serving in Maiduguri diocese, was abducted and later escaped after spending nine days in captivity.

Last month, Nigeria’s Catholic bishops decried the rise in abductions, killings, and property destruction, calling on the federal government to “take full responsibility for the present culture of violence.”

“Deaths in the hands of kidnappers, killer herdsmen, bandits, terrorist groups have made Nigeria one of the most terrorized countries in the world,” they said in an Aug. 26 statement.

They underlined the need for the government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, “to show more strategic commitment and sincerity in this fight and take full responsibility for the present culture of violence and impunity in the country.”

“The government must be balanced and seen to be so in its response to the challenges of insecurity in every segment of the citizenry,” they said after their plenary assembly in Enugu diocese, southeastern Nigeria.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Jude Atemanke. It has been adapted by CNA.

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