Nigerian Priest Kidnapped on Sunday Released

Fr. Joseph Danjuma Shekari, Parish Priest of St. Monica’s Catholic Church, Ikulu Parish

Nigerian Priest Kidnapped
© Fides

Fr. Joseph Danjuma Shekari, Nigerian priest kidnapped on the night of Sunday, February 6, has regained his freedom.

According to a statement from the diocese of Kafanchan, sent to Fides, Fr. Shekari was released around 10.30 pm (local time) on Monday, February 7.

Fr. Joseph Danjuma Shekari, parish priest of St. Monica’s Catholic Church, Ikulu Parish, in the Kauru Local Government Area of Kaduna State, in north-central Nigeria was kidnapped around 11.30 pm on Sunday, February 6 by armed men who had stormed the parish house. The cook of the parish house was killed in the attack.

Kaduna State is one of the areas of Nigeria hit by the wave of violence that has spread much death and destruction in recent weeks. Criminal gangs have been active in central and north-western Nigeria for years, raiding villages, stealing cattle, looting, and even killing people. Most recently, on Sunday, January 31, 11 people were killed in the raid on the village of Kurmin Masara in the local government area of Zangon Kataf.

In the communiqué, the diocese of Kafanchan thanks the faithful who offered prayers for the priest’s release and asks the priests of the diocese to officiate masses of suffrage for the killed cook and give thanks for the release of Fr. Shekari.

Kidnappings are a hallmark of terrorists in Nigeria, including Boko Haram and Islamic State-West Africa Province, and clergy are increasingly being targeted. For more than a month in Spring 2021, Father Bako Francis Awesuh, 37, a priest at St. John Paul II parish in Gadanaji, Kachia local government area, in Kaduna state, was held captive by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, who stand accused of deadly attacks on Christian farmers along Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Father Awesuh described his ordeal in a recent interview with Aid to the Church in Need.

Pope Francis appealed for the safety of people in Nigeria at the conclusion of his Sept. 29 General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, while expressing his closeness to the victims of the recent attack in northern Nigeria.

“I have heard with pain the news of the armed attacks that took place last Sunday against the villages of Madamai and Abun, in northern Nigeria,” Francis said, stating: “I pray for those who have died, for those who have been injured and for the entire population of Nigeria.”