Nigerian Priest Abducted While Driving to Sunday Mass; Kidnappers Demand Ransom

(Photo: Open Doors)Christians in Nigeria worship at a church in this undated file photo.

Another priest in Nigeria has been abducted by gunmen, who are reportedly demanding a ransom for the pastor's release.

Father Christopher Ogaga, who is the priest of Emmanuel Catholic Church in the Okpe local government area of the Delta state, was kidnapped Saturday night while on his way to Warri, where he was to help another priest lead a mass.

Sources close to Ogaga told the Nigerian Tribune that they believe he was kidnapped along the route from his home to Warri, specifically along Arava-Oviri-Orere-Okpe Road. The pastor was said to have left his house around 10 p.m.

"We are suspecting that he might have been kidnapped along this route," a source was quoted as saying. "He was driving alone when the incident happened because he usually travels to Warri alone on Sundays."

Ogaga is also the principal of St. Peters Clavers College in Aghalokpe. He also helps oversee St. Luke's Catholic Church in Oviri Okpe and St. Jude's Catholic Church in Aghalopke

The priest's abduction was reportedly confirmed by Muhammad Mustapha, the state commissioner or police. Mustapha told media outlets that authorities are on the search for the pastor and his kidnappers.

One source who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity explained that the abductors have reached out to the church to demand a ransom equivalent to just over $40,000.

"[W]e are on the trail of the hoodlums and I assure you that he would be rescued and the hoodlums arrested," the source vowed.

Ogaga's abduction came just hours before another Catholic church in the Okpe local government area collapsed. One child was killed and at least 11 others were injured. The collapse of the over 100-year-old church building was blamed on a structural collapse aided by the congregation's attempt to expand and rebuild the church.

Ogaga's abduction follows the abduction of other pastors throughout Nigeria in recent months.

Father Andrew Anah, a priest Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Obomkpa, Delta State, has been kidnapped twice within a 12-month span. He was first abducted last August. Anah was last released in July after a ransom was reportedly paid.

Last month, gunmen killed priest Hosea Akuchi after storming his church in the Kaduna state in the morning hours. The priest was said to have resisted when the gunmen tried to abduct him. Instead, they kidnapped his wife and demanded a ransom of about $14,000.

In July, Father Paulinus Udewangu of St. Marks Catholic Church in Nsude was abducted while jogging on July 4. He was released on July 7 after an intervention by authorities.

Nigeria ranks as the 14th most dangerous country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2018 World Watch List.

Much of the violence against Christians in Nigeria as of late has come from nomadic Fulani herdsmen, a great number of which are Muslim. Thousands of Christians have been killed by Fulani violence in the last year, as they are known to frequently attack farming communities in Nigeria's Middle Belt.

Most recently, suspected Fulani herdsmen burned a pastor, his wife and three children to death by lighting their house on fire while engaging in an onslaught on their village. The attackers razed 95 buildings during the attack.

Following an attack in the Plateau State earlier this summer that left dozens dead, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria issued a statement condemning the Buhari government for being unable to adequately address the spate of violence against Christian communities.

"We have said it before and it bears repeating that it can no longer be regarded as a mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself," the statement reads. "Words are no longer enough for the president and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project."

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