Three seminarians kidnapped from their college chapel in Nigeria were released last night (Wednesday 13th October), prompting “a symphony of praises” from staff, students, parents, friends and faithful across the country.
The fourth-year theology students were set free by their abductors 48 hours after they were taken from Christ the King Seminary, near Kafanchan, in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
In a message sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians, Father Emmanuel Uchechukwu Okolo, Chancellor of the Diocese of Kafanchan, said: “With hearts filled with joy, we raise our voices in a symphony of praises as we announce the return of our three major seminarians, who were abducted by armed persons.”
In another message sent to ACN, Father Emmanuel Faweh Kazah, a teacher at the seminary, said Christians were defiant in the face of threats and violence.
He said: “We were beaten but we won’t stay down. We won’t allow ourselves to be cowed by threats emanating from men and women of the underworld.
“We will courageously carry the torch of the gospel to the ends of the earth, notwithstanding the barrage of attacks on the Christian faith.”
Hours before the release of the seminarians, Bishop Julius Kundi of Kafanchan, celebrated Mass at the seminary for the start of the academic year and consoled staff and students.
He said: “It is ‘trusting in the Lord’ that anchors our hearts… We need a strong faith to have a strong heart. And we need that strength now more than ever.”
More than 130 seminarians were on site at Christ the King Seminary when the attackers struck just after 7.20pm on Monday.
As well as abducting the three theology students, six other seminarians were injured and were rushed to hospital but were quickly released after being declared in a “stable” condition.
Christians are under severe pressure in Nigeria from Boko Haram militant Islamists in the north and extremist Fulani fighters.
Some Church figures have spoken of a “slow genocide”.
The crisis is compounded by Nigeria’s deepening financial problems, which have caused a spike in abductions for ransoms.
Church leaders have declared a policy of not paying ransoms.