Religious workers in Cameroon freed after more than a month

This is a screenshot from video showing some of the people who were abducted by separatists in Cameroon, all of whom have since been freed. All nine, including clergy, were seized Sept. 16, 2022, when 60 attackers destroyed St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the southwestern village of Nchang, close to the Nigerian border. (CNS screenshot Cameroon News Agency)

By Killian Chimtom

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon — After over a month in captivity, the five priests, a nun and three other church workers kidnapped from St. Mary’s Parish in Nchang have been freed.

“I announce with great joy the release of all nine who were abducted,” Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo of Mamfe said Oct. 23.

“I am sincerely grateful to all who joined us in the collective effort in praying for the safety and release of our brothers and sisters,” he said in a statement. “Words will only do scant justice in expressing my sentiments of gratitude to all those who collaborated with us in the process of negotiating for their safety and release.”

The bishop did not give details on how the kidnapped religious were released, but an official of the Nigerian Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons said his office was involved. Nchang borders Nigeria.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted, the Nigerian official said a refugee who was in contact with the kidnappers and their activities acted as an informant to his office.

He said his office worked collaboratively with several government offices and the refugee to finally secure the release of the religious.

Bishop Abangalo said the release was a great relief to the church, which lived through a month of “great pain and sorrow,” including as a video of the captives was released on social media.

In early October, Father Humphrey Tatah Mbuy, spokesman for the Cameroonian bishops’ conference, told national TV that the kidnappers had halved their ransom demand to $50,000, but added that priests and religious were being targeted increasingly by separatist and government forces “both for their peacemaking efforts and for extortion purposes.”

After six years of conflict in Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions, up to 6,000 people have been killed, 680,000 forcibly displaced, and 2 million left needing food assistance, according U.N. data released in August. In 2017, separatists declared an independent state, “Ambazonia.”

Catholic News Service
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