The Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International has learned with dismay of the abduction of four young seminarians in Kaduna, Nigeria.
According to local sources, the incident occurred on 8 January 2020 at the Good Shepherd seminary in the city of Kaduna in northern Nigeria. Shortly after 10.30 p.m. armed men broke through the fence surrounding the living quarters of the seminarians and forced their way into the student hostel, shooting sporadically. They stole some of the students’ laptops and phones and then kidnapped four of the seminarians.
The four students concerned are Pius Kanwai (aged 19), Peter Umenukor, (23), Stephen Amos (23) and Michael Nnadi (18). They come from various Catholic dioceses of northern Nigeria and had only recently begun to study for the priesthood. There has as yet been no news of them since their abduction and no information as to their whereabouts. And so far nothing is known of the identity or background of their abductors.
According to ACN, there is no indication so far of a direct religious background to the abduction, and there is no clear information about any ransom demand made to the families. In any case, the security situation in the whole of Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt – which includes Kaduna – is already extremely precarious, owing to the numerous and repeated attacks on mainly Christian villages by members of the nomadic Fulani people. Thousands of people have lost any properties and been left as refugees as a result. On the other hand, the Islamist Boko Haram terror group continues to perpetrate its atrocities across the northeast of the country.
Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN International, expressed his outrage at the abduction. “The security situation in Nigeria is appalling”, he said. “Criminal gangs are further exploiting the chaotic situation and making matters still worse.” It is time for the government to address the issue urgently, he said, and protect the lives and property of its citizens. It is the duty of government to guarantee the security of the country and its people, he added. Otherwise Nigeria would run the risk of becoming a failed state. “The murders and abductions remind me of the situation in Iraq before the invasion of the forces of the so-called Islamic State. Already at that stage, Christians were being abducted, robbed and murdered because there was no protection by the state. This must not be allowed to happen to the Christians of Nigeria. The government must act now, before it is too late”, Dr Heine-Geldern insisted.
“This violent abduction of innocent young seminarians is a horrific act”, he added. “Two of the victims are not even 20 years old. We appeal to the conscience of their abductors and urge them to release these young men. At the same time we call on all people of goodwill to join us in praying that the four seminarians will soon be freed unharmed.” Dr Heine-Geldern also expressed his sympathy with the families of the abducted young men and with the remaining 268 students at the seminary in Kaduna. “They must be going through a terrible time”, he said. “For years now Nigeria’s Christians have been going through hell, but their faith remains unshaken”, the ACN president concluded.