News 12 Oct 2020

Father Pier Luigi Maccalli finally set free after two years in the hands of jihadists

The Italian SMA missionary Father Pier Luigi Maccalli has finally been set free, on Tuesday 6 October 2020, more than two years after he was originally abducted in the diocese of Niamey in Niger, on 17 February 2018.

At the same time, three other hostages were also freed: the French development aid worker Sophie Pétronin, the Italian Nicola Chiacchio and the Malian opposition politician Soumaila Cissé. However, the whereabouts of Sister Gloria Narvaez is still unknown.

“Thousands of ACN‘s benefactors throughout the world have been praying for the liberation of Father Pier Luigi Maccalli and waiting to hear news of him,“ commented Mr Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International. "And our Italian national office has also run a number of campaigns to ensure that this great missionary was not forgotten in his own home country Italy.“ 

"The news of his release and that of the other hostages gives us reason to hope that the Colombian religious Sister Gloria Narvaez Argoti may also be among them. Sadly, however, we have so far had no confirmation of this,“ Mr Heine-Geldern continued. "In our great joy at the liberation of Father Maccalli, we remain concerned however for the fate of this courageous religious sister, who was abducted by jihadist groups in Mali over three years and eight months ago. But we are not giving up hope,“ he added.

The most recent news of Sister Gloria dates back to a video of September 2018, in which the French hostage Sophie Pétronin is also seen, known in France as the “last French hostage in the world” and who is due to arrive back in France on 9 October. Her release had raised hopes that Sister Gloria might also be among the liberated hostages. In the 2018 video, Sr Gloria is seen saying that she is “packing her things every day” while awaiting her release. Since then there has been no trace of her.

In the most recent report published by ACN International on Religious Freedom Worldwide, which covers the period from June 2016 to June 2018, the security situation in Mali is described as “still very unstable” and it is noted that several Islamist terrorist groups are operating or seeking to extend their influence in the country, among them the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” or “Al Qaeda in the Maghreb” (AQIM). The report also emphasises that the “fragile security situation” in the country is “causing problems for religious minorities which, because of their small numbers, are among the most endangered groups in society.”

Featured Image: Father Pierluigi Maccalli before his abduction. Photographer/Author:
Societé des Missions Africanes (SMA). 

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