Killings and kidnapping of priests, the religious and other pastoral workers especially in West Africa, seem to be on the increase. Although it is worth bearing in mind that by far the majority of victims in killings and kidnappings are ordinary innocent persons, crimes targeting religious pastoral workers seem to be on the rise, in Africa. Recently many Priests, religious and seminarians have been reportedly killed, abducted or injured. Here are a few examples:

Fr. Clement Rapuluchukwu Ugwu

Six days after being kidnapped by unknown gunmen from his parish house, the body of Fr. Clement Rapuluchukwu Ugwu was found Wednesday, last week. He was buried Thursday after Mass at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Church, Ogui Enugu.

Fr. Ugwu was abducted on the night of 13 March from the parish house of St. Mark’s Catholic Church, Obinofia, Ndiuno in Ezeagu LGA of Enugu State. The kidnappers shot him before taking him away with them.

The Guardian – Nigeria quoted Bishop Onaga saying the increasing spate of violent killings in the country was worrying. Both the Bishop and the Diocesan Director of Communications, Fr. Benjamin Achi, called on the state government to live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property.

Capuchin Priest Fr. Toussaint Zoumaldé

Agenzia Fides reports that Capuchin priest, Fr. Toussaint Zoumaldé, a native of the Central African Republic was killed in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon on his way to Baibokoum in Chad.

According to a statement released by the General Custody of the Capuchins for Chad and the Central African Republic, Fr. Toussaint Zoumaldé had gone to the Diocese of Bouar, in the western part of Central African Republic to conduct some training. In the night between 19 and 20 March, unknown people attacked and killed him in Ngaoundéré (Cameroon) where he had made an overnight stop.

Fr. Toussaint (born in 1971) had worked as the Director of Radio Siriri, in the Diocese of Bouar.

Missing Fr. Joël Yougbaré, the parish priest of Djibo.

In the meantime, the Bishop of Dori, Laurent Dabiré, in the northern part of Burkina Faso has expressed sadness that there is no news concerning the disappearance of Fr. Joël Yougbaré, the parish priest of Djibo.

Last Sunday after celebrating Sunday Mass in Bottogui, Fr. Joël Yougbaré was returning to his parish house along the Djibo-Tongomayel-Nianguel-Sergoussouma-Bottogui road and since then had not been seen. No one knows what became of him. However, the Bishop told Agenzia Fides that the area where the priest disappeared is unsafe due to the presence of jihadist groups,

In mid-February, a Spanish priest and four customs officers were killed in a jihadist attack in eastern Burkina Faso. Similarly, an Italian missionary, Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, a priest of the Society for African Missions was kidnapped on 17 September 2018 in Tillaberi.

Kidnapped Fr. John Shekwolo of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, Nigeria

John Shekwolo, a Priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna in Nigeria, was kidnapped by armed men from his residence on 25th March 2019. A statement by the Archdiocese of Kaduna reads,  “We regret to announce that one of our priests, Rev. Fr. John Bako Shekwolo has been kidnapped by unknown persons. As we ask for the prayers of the faithful of our Archdiocese and beyond the quick release of Fr. Shekwolo, we appeal to the consciences of those who abducted him to kindly release him unharmed”.

Spanish Salesian Missionary, Fr. Antonio Fernandez

The Spanish Salesian missionary, Fr. Antonio César Fernández was assassinated on Friday 15.02.2019 at 72 years in a jihadi attack close to the border of Burkina Faso. The vehicle was just returning from a meeting in Togo when it was raided a few miles after crossing the border by terrorists who had killed four police officers and burned down a customs station moments earlier. The armed men stopped the vehicle, let the occupants get out. They took the priest aside, and killed him with a shot in the head.

We continue to pray in union with the whole Church for the clergy especially those who find themselves at the front line of violence in the discharge of their pastoral duties.