Catholic Church Refuses to Pay Ransoms For Abducted Cameroonian Priests

The Catholic Church has announced they will not pay ransoms for nine people kidnapped by Anglophone separatists from a church in Southwest Cameroon. The group includes five priests, a nun and three churchgoers.

The church “will not pay a dime” to the kidnappers of a group of worshippers taken from a Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Bamenda has said.

Anglophone separatists are demanding a ransom for the release of five priests, a nun, and three others from the congregation, kidnapped by Anglophone separatist fighters last week. 

“The devil is a liar and the devil can never win”, said Archbishop Andrew Nkea.

Paying any money as ransom to the kidnappers would be a dangerous precedent, the Archbishop said.

He said the separatist fighters began by demanding a ransom of US$100,000.

“They have been bringing it down and have now ended up asking for US$50,000”, Archbishop Nkea said. 

The Archbishop also told reporters the separatists said they attacked St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nchang near Mamfe and burned it down because they were angry the Catholic Church does not support their struggle. 

The kidnapped priests are Rev. Fr. Emmanuel, Father Barnabas, Father Cornelius, Father Elias and Father Job-Francis. The abducted nun was named as Sister Jacinta. The kidnapped Christians are Madam Kelechukwu, Mr. Nkem Patrick and Blanch Bright.

The Bamenda Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church earlier condemned the abduction and the burning down of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nchang, a town in the Southwest Region of Cameroon on Friday September 17.

In a statement issued Sunday September 18, 2022, the Episcopal Conference said the church was “burned by unknown armed men”.

“It is with great shock and utter horror that we, the Bishops of the Bamenda Episcopal Conference learnt of the burning down of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Nchang and the kidnapping of five priests, one religious sister and two lay faithful by unknown gunmen”, the Episcopal statement said.

“This act was completely unprecedented and, as of now, no concrete reason has been given for this heinous act against the house of God and the messengers of God”, the statement added.

The Bishop of the Mamfe Diocese, Aloysius Fondong Abangalo, who visited the burnt down structure shortly after the incident accused boys from the Nchang village of having joined separatist fighters, popularly known locally as “Amba Boys” and colluded with them in carrying out the cowardly act.

The Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have been involved in a bloody conflict between Anglophone separatists and the state for six years now.

English-speaking Cameroonians make up a majority of the populations of the Northwest and Southwest in predominantly French-speaking Cameroon, which President Paul Biya has ruled with an iron fist since 1982.

Anglophone resentment at perceived discrimination snowballed into the declaration of an independent state in 2017 – the “Federal Republic of Ambazonia” – an entity that is not recognized internationally.

Biya, 89, has resisted calls for more autonomy in the regions and responded with a crackdown on the separatists.

The violence has claimed more than 6,000 lives and displaced around a million people, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

International monitors and the United Nations say both sides have committed abuses, including crimes against civilians.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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