Yesterday the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) received official confirmation of the death of Fr Joseph Aketeh Bako, from the Diocese of Kaduna, in Nigeria.
Fr Joseph had been kidnapped from his home on 8 March, and although there had been rumors that he had died in the hands of his abductors weeks ago, Church authorities have only now been able to provide verification. According to local reports gathered by ACN, two weeks ago another person who was being held in the same camp as Fr Joseph was released. He told the chairman of Fr Joseph’s parish council that the priest died in the camp because of illness and mistreatment. Despite this, the family held out hope until the last moment that he might be released alive.
“The increase in kidnappings, murders, and general violence against civilians, including members of the Catholic clergy in many parts of Nigeria, is a scourge that is yet to be properly addressed by the local authorities,” says Regina Lynch, head of projects at ACN International.
Fr Joseph was one of three Catholic priests kidnapped during the past month of March. Two other priests, Leo Raphael Ozigi and Felix Zakari Fidson, were subsequently released. In the same period, according to a Nigerian organization that monitors these acts of violence, 287 people were murdered and 356 kidnapped in Kaduna state alone.
The plight of kidnappings and persecution was mentioned by Archbishop Matthew Manoso Ndagoso, of Kaduna, just weeks ago, on Easter Sunday. “The political will is not there to address the issues of security in this country. The Nigerian security forces have proven they are capable, our military can do this, so that this is happening in our country shows that something has gone wrong. We have nobody else to blame but the Government. They tell us they are on top of the situation, but we think the situation is on top of them.”
Nonetheless, the archbishop spoke of hope. "Yes, we are suffering; yes, we are traumatised; yes, we are despondent; yes, as we talk there are thousands of Nigerians in kidnappers’ dens, and hundreds of thousands that have lost their dear ones, many people here have been victims of these kidnappings. In situations like this it is easy even for the most religious to think that God has abandoned them. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope. The Gospel is saying to the people that the Risen Christ is with us”, he told local media.
- By Filipe d’Avillez
Featured Image: Fr Joseph Aketeh Bako.