NIGERIA: Kidnapping on the rise

The abduction of Christians is becoming the latest potent weapon used by Islamists, says one of Release’s partners.

In recent years, the death toll in Nigeria has been high, as heavily armed Islamist militants have continued their relentless assault on Christian communities. Even the Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped the killing of Christians in the north and across the central belt of the country.

But now it seems extremists are increasingly turning to kidnapping as well – and one of Release’s partners in Nigeria thinks this is a deliberate tactic.

‘The targeting and kidnapping of Christians has been a deliberately calculated part of their jihad, to further impoverish Christian communities by the demands of millions of naira in ransom,’ he said.

Though the government has denied paying any ransoms, and families are warned by security agencies not to admit to paying them, unofficial reports say that so far Christian communities and churches have been forced to pay more than 200 million naira (about £380,000) in ransom to the Fulani militia since 2019.

‘In the first four months of this year, more than 2,200 Christians have been abducted.’

For example, the Kaduna state government reported that between January and March of this year 323 people – all from Christian villages and communities – were killed by Fulani militants. But the same report added that they had kidnapped as many as 949 people in the same period. One human rights group in Nigeria estimated that nearly 1,500 Christians have been killed across Nigeria in the first four months of this year – and that more than 2,200 have been abducted.

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Sometimes militants post video of those kidnapped on social media, such as Rev Lawan Andimi (pictured), a state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, who was abducted in January 2020 – and killed three weeks later. In the video he spoke movingly and with confidence about his faith, declaring that he was not discouraged because he was ‘in the hands of God’.

Our partner has met with church leaders in Kaduna who have been raising money to pay ransom money for church members. ‘The targeting of church members has escalated,‘ he said. As a result, our partner has had to be flexible with their programme to train pastors.

‘Your prayers  are keeping us alive and we continue to see the Lord’s protection, grace and guidance’

‘The security situation has been bad and we had to abort a trip – twice, unfortunately. We have made further plans, praying that the situation will be a little better, especially for the pastors coming from various villages, which is where most of the challenge is.

‘In Borno state, Boko Haram has taken over some communities on the outskirts of Maiduguri and has hoisted its flags there. As far as we know, no pastors have been abducted recently from our group in that area – but so many have been kidnapped in the past few months.’

Our partner added: ‘Thank you so much for keeping us in your prayers. Your  prayers are keeping us alive and we continue to see the Lord’s protection, grace and guidance in all we do.’

  • Please continue to pray for all Christians in Nigeria’s north and central belt regions, and especially for church leaders. Pray too for Release’s partner providing training and encouragement for persecuted pastors.

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