At least eight Christians were abducted by gunmen last Friday while traveling on a bus to a church program in the Kaduna state of northwest Nigeria. The church calls for prayer.
The victims, members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, were traveling to prepare for the church’s “Let’s Go a Fishing” Easter program in Kafanchan when gunman removed them from their bus and took them away in a vehicle, a church spokesperson told The Punch.
A user reportedly posted a picture on Facebook of the victims’ empty church bus and said all passengers were kidnapped along Kachia Road. The church bus has an inscription that reads, “The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Region 30, Trinity Sanctuary, Kaduna.”
Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, RCCG head of media and public relations, confirmed the kidnapping. According to the Nigerian news outlet, the pastor said the ministry is working with security agencies to secure the abductees' return.
“We feel completely disturbed by the development and as a church, the best we can do is to pray that God will intervene and these brethren will return home to their loved ones,” Olubiyi told The Punch Sunday. “As a church, we are praying now and asking God to take charge of the situation.”
The police have launched a search for the kidnapped Christians, and the abductors have demanded a ransom payment from the church, Vanguard daily newspaper reported. It is not immediately clear who abducted the church members.
During a leadership retreat on Sunday, the National Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s Youth Wing Belusochukwu Enwer challenged the government to act against this “anti-human behavior." He said self-defense would be “inevitable” if the situation remains the same in Nigeria, according to a Sunday report by Vanguard.
“Our heart bleeds that a bus-load of Christians from RCCG from Kaduna Province going for a prayer work to Kafanchan was abducted on their way,” Enwer was quoted as saying. “The incident of kidnapping is a case too many and has left bitter tastes in our mouths.”
He said divine intervention is the only way to end what is happening in Nigeria.
A spokesperson for the church told Channels TV that the kidnappers demanded a ransom equivalent to over $130,000.
Police Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Jalige, told The Punch that the church bus had been recovered.
This abduction came a little more than two weeks after another Nigerian kidnapping on March 11 resulted in around 39 missing students. The students were abducted by gunmen from a school, also in the Kaduna state of northwest Nigeria.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is known for widespread mass abductions and violence. Kidnapping for ransom payments has become common.
Boko Haram terrorists abducted Nigerian pastor Bulus Yikura on Christmas Eve and demanded a ransom payment before a deadline.
The terrorist group released videos of the pastor pleading with the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian government to rescue him before he was killed.
Yikura’s ransom payment was received just hours before his execution, and he was freed on March 3.
Nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their boarding school on February 26 and returned days later, which marked the third mass kidnapping in recent months in Nigeria.
These school kidnappings follow the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls in 2014, which gained international attention and sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Over 112 of the schoolgirls from Chibok remain missing.
Due to widespread mass kidnappings, attending school is often a risk for children in Nigeria. Around 10.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 do not attend school because of this threat as well as escalating violence in the northeast and Middle Belt, according to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.
Nigeria is ranked as the country third most affected by terrorism in the world, according to the Global Terrorism Index. From 2001 to 2019, there were over 22,000 terrorist deaths.
Nigeria is the leading country for the number of Christians murdered for their faith each year, Open Doors USA has reported. The country is home to over 95 million Christians.
Nigeria ranks No. 9 on Open Door’s World Watch List for Christian persecution worldwide due to an “extreme” level of Islamic oppression.
Islamic extremist groups such as Boko Haram, Fulani militant herdsmen and Islamic State West Africa Province often execute the violent attacks and thousands have been killed in recent years.
Nigeria was the first democratic nation to be added to the United States State Department's "country of particular concern" list in 2020 for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”