As the shocking news of the murder of Nigerian Brother Godwin Eze, a Benedictine monk kidnapped on 17 October, makes the rounds, there does not seem to be any solution in sight to the endless abductions.
Sr Mary Judith Ezeogu – Vatican City.
Brother Godwin Eze, one of three Benedictine monks kidnapped by an armed gang on the night of 17 October from the Eruku Monastery in Kwara State, North Central Nigeria, has been killed by his captors.
The other two abducted postulants, Anthony Eze and Peter Olarewaj, were freed on 21 October. Brother Godwin Eze was killed on 18 October, a day after being taken by the gun men.
According to the two freed postulants, a large group of armed men, described as a gang of Fulani herdsmen, attacked the Monastery’s novitiate dormitory around 1 a.m. on 17 October. About 10 novices and postulants were in the building, sleeping. Three were captured and forced to walk barefoot into a forest. Upon reaching the bank of a river, the bandits shot Brother Godwin and threw his body into the water. The bandits then threatened the two postulants with machetes.
The relentless spate of kidnappings
News of kidnapped Catholic priests, religious sisters, seminarians, novices and postulants or those attached to Church services in Nigeria has been relentless for some years now. Sometimes, the victims have been tortured or killed. Very few are released unscathed. Inevitably, the motive is always to extort money from the diocese or, religious congregation or family.
Apart from the tragic incidents involving the Benedictine Monastery on 5 October, this month alone, three Sisters of the Missionary Daughters of Mater Ecclesiae (MDME), a seminarian, Peter Eyakeno Sunday of the Missionary Sons of the Most Holy Trinity and Mr. Awoke Emmanuel, a driver were kidnapped. They were on their way to attend a funeral in another region of the country. Bandits attacked and seized them.
The recent abductions are just an example of many others that have taken place this year.
Insecure homes and highways
Kidnappings can happen on the highways or at home in the rectories, convents or seminaries.
It is uncertain where or when the bandits will strike. For anyone who has fallen victim, the experiences are traumatising.
When abductions happen, the Church calls for prayers and solidarity. The prayers are a great source of comfort to colleagues and families of the victims. Church officials also engage with civil and security authorities.
Priests and other religious persons in Nigeria say they fear for their lives. They often have to take precautions such as not travelling to outstations alone. They rarely go out at night. They also need to have good knowledge of those working for them. In some villages, a network of vigilantes and security networks have been formed.
Although kidnapping incidents in Nigeria are worrisome and continue unabated, the local Church is not giving up on evangelising. The Church’s pastoral agents continue to witness to the life and mission of Jesus Christ regardless of the dangers.