Christian Pastors Targeted by Kidnapping Gangs in Nigeria
Life-or-Death Bargains Test the Mettle of Clergy Negotiators
By Douglas Burton
August 23, 2019
The kidnapping of pastors for ransom has reached epidemic levels in Nigeria.
“Just in the last month there have been a lot of pastor kidnappings,” said Rev. Joseph Hayab, the president of the Kaduna Christian Association of Nigeria “During the last four and a half years we have seen at least 30 pastors from Kaduna State kidnapped, of which four were murdered,” he says. The police and army have yet to react to these cases, according to Hayab. The scourge of kidnappings in Kaduna State, the third most populous in Nigeria, is matched by attacks on clergy in all 16 of Nigeria’s northern states.
The Trump Administration has expressed concern to the President of Nigeria regarding a string of atrocities committed by the terrorist group known as Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. He pointedly mentioned the issue during a White House appearance with President Muhammadu Buhari on April 30, 2018.
But much more needs to be done and soon, according to Frank Gaffney, president of the Washington-based Save the Persecuted Christians.
“The murders of Christian clergy in Nigeria are not simply outrages that should be denounced in the strongest possible terms by the U.S. government and people of faith everywhere as crimes against humanity,” he said on Friday, August 23. “We should also regard them as precursors to a crisis with, ultimately, considerable national security and humanitarian implications for our country,” he said. “Christians will respond to this and other attacks by fleeing their country in vast — and unsustainable – refugee flows,” he said in a written statement.
One murder kidnapping affected a megachurch near Washington, D.C. The pastor of the Living Faith Church in Romi, Kaduna, was killed on August 4, 2019, on the Kaduna-Abuja road where dozens of kidnappings have happened during the last two years. The pastor’s church is an extension of Living Faith International, also known as Winner’s Chapel, which has thousands of adherents in the United States, including several thousand in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Exclusive video of police arriving on the scene of a kidnapping can be found according to Nigerian state media.
After the passage of weeks, most kidnapped victims are given up for dead. Meanwhile, church communities continue their prayers and raising money for ransoms.
Pastor Emoh, of Friendship Church International, was kidnapped Aug. four and returned to his family on Aug. 11 after a severe beating, Hayab says. “The kidnappers demanded $20 million Naira, but the church couldn’t pay that, so they finally accepted N600,00 which is equivalent to about $2,000,” Hayab says.
Police Negligence Alleged
“The mounting cases of abduction of Christian clergy has impacted the clergymen, their families and the churches, especially those in the rural areas,” he said, adding that the security authorities are failing in their core responsibility. Angered by his report Monday to a gathering of 800 pastors in Kaduna, Hayab was called to the city police station to be interrogated by security chiefs.
After giving the police a full report with full documentation of the kidnappings in Kaduna this year, most of the police thanked him, said he said. “At first the security men were not trying to get information but trying to intimidate me, but after hearing what I had collected in a survey of all pastors in the state, they changed their attitude,” he said.
Some pastors have survived multiple kidnappings.
Shuaibu Ibrahim, 55, pastor of Kwanan Bature Baptist Church in a village on the Kaduna-Abuja, was kidnapped on April 25 in his house by 10 armed men who forced him to walk into the bush where he was held for six days. He was released after the church came up with $540. Upon his release, he was briefly hospitalized as a result of the torture he received at the hands of his captors. Ibrahim’s earlier kidnapping ordeal was on December 10, 2017. Seven armed men went to his house that night and broke into his house with iron bars. They took him and kept him in the bush for eight days until a $1,350 ransom was paid. Ibrahim says he was beaten daily until his family sold his small car to complete the ransom.
Kidnappers are still negotiating for the release of Pastor Elisha Numan of the Nagarta Baptist Church in Ungwan Makere near Udawa in Chikun within Kaduna state. The pastor was abducted at his house along with his son at 2:00 a.m. August 14.
His son Emanuel has been released and told to return home and start collecting the 20 million Naira ransom needed to free the elder Numan — a sum equivalent to $54,000. “The kidnappers are very evil and usually on drugs, so it is always possible that the victim will be killed, but the counter-offer was much less,” said Hayab.
Reuben Buhari in Kaduna, Nigeria contributed reporting to this story.