Father Jonah Yabanad Stephen, Rector of Christ The King Major Seminary and Father Emmanuel Kazah Fawei, Rector of St. Albert Institute with their released seminarians.
Three seminarians in Nigeria were abducted during a violent attack by bandits on October 11 and were released on October 13.
The abducted seminarians are all fourth-year theology students of Christ the King Major Seminary, Kaduna State. At the time of the attack, shortly after 7:20 pm, more than 130 seminarians were on campus, along with the rector and staff. Six people were wounded during the attack but are safe.
The three seminarians abducted from the seminary chapel belong to the Apostles of Divine Charity and the Little Sons of the Eucharist.
An audio recorded message by one of the students, who narrowly escaped being abducted, indicated that the Seminary students had just concluded evening prayers in the Church when the gunmen stormed the premises and captured about six students still in the Church.
"You know, the students run a cafeteria system where students go to have their dinner – after their usual events on Monday night, the students went for their dinner, while some went to their rooms," the recorded audio message states.
"There were some of the students who were still in the cafeteria when the gunmen came shooting sporadically from nowhere. The Bandits were able to kidnap five of the students. Still, along the way I think when they saw that the vigilante and other people were running after them, then they released two of the students and went away with three," Kaduna State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Joseph Hayab told the Guardian, a Nigerian newspaper.
On Wednesday morning, Bishop Julius Kundi of the Diocese of Kafanchan celebrated the inaugural mass for the academic year at the seminary where the abductions took place and encouraged the students to take comfort in the faith.
"One line from the psalms struck me recently in my morning prayer. 'He is not afraid of bad news: his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord,'" The prelate said, quoting the Psalm.
"Notice that God does not promise that the righteous will not receive bad news. They will. That is life in this valley of tears. But the righteous will not be afraid."
Hours later, news came in that the three students had been released.
"With hearts filled with joy, we raise our voices in a symphony of praises as we announce the return of our three Seminarians, who armed persons abducted from the Chapel of the Seminary at Christ the King Major Seminary, Fayit Fadan Kagoma in Jema'a Local Government Area, Kaduna State. Barely 48 hours after their kidnap, our beloved brothers were released by their abductors," said the official statement released by Father Emmanuel, Okolo, the Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchathe.
Christians are under severe pressure in Nigeria for several reasons. Fulani herders, most of whom are Muslim, have had increasing conflict with predominantly Christian farmers over limited natural resources in Kaduna and other states in recent years. The radical Islamist group Boko Haram continues to threaten safety in Nigeria's north.
Church leaders say, however, that this has become full-blown persecution, according to Catholic News Agency.
On the other hand, the deep financial crisis in Nigeria has driven many people to criminality; abductions for a ransom are common. The Church institutions become targets because the bandits presume that the institution will have the means to pay for the release of its faithful. The Episcopal Conference of Nigeria has made it very clear that the Church does not pay ransoms.
According to the Nigerian news website "Premium Times,' Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need International, called on Nigeria's government to ensure its citizens' safety, saying the country "runs the risk of becoming a failed state."
A priest of the Kafanchan diocese was kidnapped last month. Father Benson Bulus Luka was abducted from his residence on September 13, and released after little more than 24 hours.
Gunmen abducted four seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna in January 2020, holding them for ransom. The kidnappers eventually released three seminarians but killed 18-year-old Michael Nnadi after refusing to renounce his faith.
Kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have multiplied in recent years, a situation that has prompted Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and call on the government to prioritize the safety of its citizens.