During a two day police operation, six women religious who were kidnapped in Nigeria’s Edo state two months ago were released unharmed on Saturday, generating much joy from the Christian community.
The women were freed on 6 Janurary, but their captors were able to escape.
They had been kidnapped on 13 November 2017 from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Convent in Iguoriakhi. Taken by unknown gunmen, three of the women were professed nuns (Sr Roseline Isiocha, Sr Aloysius Ajayi and Sr Frances Udi), and the other three were aspirants. Sr Ajayi was released first, followed several hours later by the others
“We are happy; to God be the glory,” said the convent’s mother superior, Mother Agatha Osarekho. “They are fine and are receiving some medical checkup in a hospital,” she added, according to the Scottish Catholic Observer.
Sr Osarekho received a ransom request of $55,000 for the women’s return, but she did not pay it. Although the criminals were not captured, Sr Osarekho applauded the efforts of authorities.
Fr Kevin Oselumhense Anetor, a priest of the Diocese of Uromi, whence the women were kidnapped, posted on Facebook thanking “all the men and women of goodwill who worked and prayed tirelessly behind the scenes for the release of our sisters. We thank the mother superior of the EHJ for her patience and strong will, and her sisters for their solidarity during these days of trial.”
“We thank the Catholic Archdioceses of Benin and Lagos for their support and prayers, and indeed the Catholic and non-Catholic World, for their vigilance and prayers,” he added.
Archbishop Alfred Martins of Lagos had, earlier that week, urged government authorities to intensify their investigation into the abduction, saying, “We still do hope that the security agencies would do much more than is being done now to ensure that the sisters are released.”
Nigeria’s bishops had decried the nuns’ kidnapping in December, calling it a product of the “agents of darkness.” Pope Francis also brought attention to the plight of the religious women, praying for them at his 17 December Angelus address.
Kidnappings have happened in the Nigerian Church in the past. An Italian missionary priest, Fr. Maurizio Pallù, was kidnapped in Edo state for a week in October 2017. In Imo state, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was kidnapped and killed in September of the same year.
This article first appeared on Catholic News Agency.