The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have appealed for the release of four seminarians who were abducted by gunmen on January 8, Vatican News revealed Friday.
As Breitbart News reported this week, unidentified gunmen stormed the Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary in Kaduna State, central Nigeria, kidnapping four students. Wearing military fatigues, the assailants arrived at the seminary around 10:30pm and began shooting at students, professors, and staff members, an assault that lasted about a half hour.
The kidnappers have made contact with the families of the abducted seminarians, Vatican News said, but so far they have not demanded a ransom. The four missing seminarians, Pius Kanwai, 19; Peter Umenukor, 23; Stephen Amos, 23; and Michael Nnadi, 18 are all first-year philosophy students at the seminary.
Kaduna police said they had launched a search for the four missing students but as yet have apprehended no one. While the identity of the kidnappers is still unclear, a recent spate of violence against Christians by Muslim extremists in central Nigeria suggests the attack may have been religiously motivated.
In its report, Vatican News seemed to adopt the same hypothesis, saying that the attack “was all too familiar in a region where Boko Haram and other Islamist groups use brutal and brazen methods to reinforce their reign of terror.”
The jihadists resort to kidnappings as a means of attracting media attention to their cause and forced recruitment to their ranks, Vatican News noted, but also as a means of financing their operations through ransom demands.
In its World Watch List 2020 released this week, Christian persecution monitoring group Open Doors placed Nigeria at number 12 of the 50 countries with the highest rates of persecution.
“Christians in the northern region and in the Middle Belt suffer from violence perpetrated by Islamic extremist groups such as militant Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram,” the report stated. “Such violence often results in loss of life, physical injury, as well as loss of property.”
“As a result of the violence, Christians are also being dispossessed of their land and means of livelihood—and Christians with a Muslim background also face rejection from their own families,” it noted.