Missionaries defy threats from kidnappers and radical Islamists

Missionaries defy threats from kidnappers and radical Islamists Kidnapped Italian missionary Pier Luigi Maccalli

There has been a “great increase” in attacks and kidnapping of missionaries by radical Islamists and poverty-stricken youths over the last 20 years, the Irish-born Superior General of the Society of African Missions (SMA) has said.

This comes as an Italian missionary of the order was kidnapped last week in southwest Niger by an armed group believed to have entered the country from nearby Burkina Faso.

Speaking to this paper Fr Fachtna O’Driscoll said they are “deeply troubled” and that he is contacting people on the ground on a daily basis for updates. At the time of print they had not heard anything about the fate of Fr Pier Luigi Maccalli – taken on September 17.

Fr Fachtna specifically mentioned Nigeria having become much more dangerous, with kidnapping and ransoming of priests becoming more common.

“There’s a lot of poverty, there’s a lot of young men especially who might have even gone to college but there are no jobs so this is a quick way to make some money. It’s frightening, very frightening,” he said.

“And there’s also the Muslim fundamentalist sorts as well, in those areas in particular it’s very insecure. They’re operating more in the areas that are Muslim-dominated, in some of the other areas you would have gangs who go around kidnapping people for a quick ransom.”

He said even 10 years ago it would be quite rare, but “now it’s quite common” in parts of Nigeria anyway.

Asked whether priests are being targeted Fr Fachtna said that there is sometimes a belief the Church would pay the ransom for a member of clergy. However, specifically mentioning Nigeria, he said Church officials have said they will never give money for any kidnapped priest “so that message has gone out strong”.


Despite the growing concern for missionaries Fr Fachtna said it is not a job, it’s a vocation, “so the missionary is called by God, and part of that is giving their life for it”.

“I don’t think this will stop missionaries doing their work even in the most dangerous places, but of course they have to be prudent, take precautions and not to do anything stupid,” he said.