Nigerian priest kidnapped goes free

Nigerian priest kidnapped goes free A Boko Haram militant carries the Nigerian flag. Picture: ACN UK.

Nigerian priest Fr Mikah Suleiman was released last Sunday after more than two weeks in captivity.

The parish priest of St Raymond’s Catholic Church, in Damba, Zamfara State, had been abducted from his presbytery in Sokoto diocese, north-west Nigeria, in the early hours of Saturday, June 22.

In the days that followed, fears for his safety grew, especially after a video was released, in which the captive priest warned of threats to kill him.

Announcing his release, Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto thanked Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for praying for Fr Suleiman’s safety: “Thank you so much [to] the entire ACN family. Your love and support mean so much”.

Speaking in a video message shared on Facebook this week, Fr Suleiman stated he was in good health adding: “I want to thank you for your prayers and your support towards my rescue. By the grace of God, I am out of the hands of the bandits. Thank you very much”.

Sokoto diocese communications director Fr Pascal Salifu said: “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to God for his protection and to everyone who offered prayers and support during this challenging time”.

He added: “Our thanks also go to the authorities and all involved in securing Fr Mikah’s release”.

About 10 days ago, a video message was released in which Fr Suleiman stated: “[The bandits] told me that killing a person is not difficult for them”.

He added: “Please save my life in the name of God. Look at my head, look at my legs. I was tied to a [rope] and I am the only one in this place. Normally, if they kidnap somebody they don’t waste time”.

The recent abductions tell the larger story of Christian persecution in Nigeria – a country of over 230 million people, nearly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Figures from a consortium of civil society organisations known as the Civil Society Joint Action Group reveal that 17,469 Nigerians – most of them Christians – have been abducted since 2019.

Nigeria ranks sixth globally on the 2024 World Watch List, which identifies countries where Christians experience severe persecution. The list is compiled by Open Doors, an NGO dedicated to supporting Christians worldwide.

Last year, Intersociety issued a chilling report that revealed that at least 52,250 Christians had been killed in Nigeria since 2009 when the Islamist group Boko Haram began its murderous campaign to create a caliphate. Those numbers have since increased considerably.