Sixteen members of a Baptist Church in Nigeria have been released after being abducted almost a month ago.
Around 40 members of the Bege Baptist Church congregation in Madal in the Chikun area of Kaduna State were abducted by armed assailants of Fulani ethnicity who attacked the church’s Sunday service on 7th May. The majority managed to escape, however sixteen remained in captivity.
The Kaduna State Chair of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev John Joseph Hayab, informed the charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that members of the local Muslim community had contributed funds towards a ransom payment. They had also purchased a motorcycle requested by the abductors as part of the payment.
“I confirm and give thanks that all 16 are now back home," he said. "We are grateful to the local Muslims who contributed towards the ransom, and pray that from now onwards the two religious communities will work together to bring this painful era of kidnapping, violence and killings to an end.”
CSW says news of the encouraging cooperation between the faith communities comes as a viral video of the former governor of Kaduna State addressing his successor and Muslim religious leaders continues to cause consternation. In the video, Nasir el-Rufai expresses satisfaction at having secured Muslim dominance in perpetuity in key political sectors in Kaduna State.
CSW says that during El-Rufai’s eight years in office, predominantly Christian southern Kaduna experienced a significant rise in armed attacks, with thousands killed, thousands more displaced and hundreds of villages destroyed.
El-Rufai has also come under strong criticism for allegedly favouring Muslims in the allocation of state resources for capital projects and employment opportunities.
CSW’s founder president Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW welcomes the release of the remaining 16 members of Bege Baptist Church and we wish them and their families and community a swift recovery from this traumatic ordeal. We join Rev Hayab in applauding the contributions made by the local Muslim community towards their release and hope it indeed marks the beginning of a new era of reconciliation and cooperation. However, the comments of former governor El-Rufai illustrate that the situation remains highly charged as violations in southern Kaduna continue to manifest along religious fault lines while those with the power to end them have prioritised other agendas.
“We urge the Nigerian authorities to challenge anyone who fosters religious division to do far more to combat religion-related violence, and to prioritise the protection of vulnerable communities. Members of the international community must also be prepared to raise this human rights crisis which has been allowed to claim the lives of thousands for far too long.”