Fulani Muslim militants in Delta State, Nigeria, abducted a Catholic priest this weekend whom they had previously kidnapped and released in 2016, local news reported Monday.
Father Jude Onyebadi, the pastor of Saint’s Peters & Paul parish in the town of Issele Asagba, was working at his pineapple farm this weekend when armed Islamist militants arrived and carried him off into the bush, along with three farm workers who were set free — or escaped, since media reports vary on the question —several hours later.
The communications director for the Catholic Diocese of Issele Uku, Father Charles Uganwan, confirmed reports of the priest’s abduction, saying the incident had been reported to the security agencies and that members of the church are praying for his safe return.
Father Uganwan said that the kidnappers had not yet made any contact with the priest’s family or demanded ransom for his release.
In late 2016, three armed Fulani raiders abducted the same priest at his pineapple farm.
On that occasion, the priest’s captors asked for a ransom of 50 million Naira ($130,000), and later dropped their demand to 20 million Naira ($52,000) for the release of the priest. The diocesan communications director refused to pay the ransom on principle, declaring that the Catholic Church does not pay ransoms.
Father Onyedadi was released a few days later.
Fulani attacks on Christians have risen significantly in Nigeria since the country imposed a coronavirus lockdown on March 30 and scores of Christian farmers have been killed, according to a September 8 report.
“The middle belt region, which produces a large percentage of the country’s food for domestic consumption and export, has been affected most,” wrote Nigerian journalist Patrick Egwu.
In July, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported “a sustained campaign of violence targeting farming communities” in parts of the middle belt, “which has been ongoing since January 2020, and which has seen a particular surge during July.”
CSW also revealed that already as of May 15, Muslim assailants had killed 59 Christians and burnt down 155 homes, leaving hundreds of area people displaced.
The killing continued and even increased over the summer. On August 10, some 20 gunmen stormed the village of Edikwu in Nigeria’s Benue state, killing at least 13 people and burning homes. In early September, several more villages were attacked and more than 10 people were killed.
“When this happens, the police go there, but before they arrive, the attackers have already disappeared,” said Paul Tekina, a villager in Benue State.
Last August 22, Crux, a U.S.-based Catholic news outlet, declared Nigeria the “biggest killing ground of Christians in the world” due to attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani militants. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians have been murdered by radical Islamists in the West African country over the last decade.
Last December, the Wall Street Journal published a troubling report stating Islamist Fulani militants are waging a brutal war on Nigeria’s Christians in a campaign to rid the country’s middle belt of non-Muslims.
Fulani radicals now pose a greater threat than the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, the essay declared.