X
Donate

Increasing Danger for Pastoral Workers around the World

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is increasingly concerned about the danger to priests, religious and lay missionaries in many parts of the world. So far in 2021, the media have reported that at least 17 people have been murdered and 20 have been abducted.

France: Night of Witnesses 2021- (Nuit des témoins)

“Being a priest or religious does not make a person immune to violence,” says Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN. “On the contrary, it can make them more of a target. Sometimes the motive is financial whether robbery or ransom. Sometimes the aggressors want to silence the prophetic voice of the Church denouncing injustice and violence. But there is also increasing aggression based on persecution and the lack of religious freedom.”

There is no time or place that is safe. Priests and religious have been attacked by day and by night, at home and in churches, on the street or leaving a bank, walking or in a vehicle. They have been shot, stabbed, struck with machetes and beaten to death.

“When security is fragile and everybody has left, the priests, religious and lay Catholic missionaries remain, and their dedication to serve others puts them in the line of fire. They need our prayers and support more than ever.” – Thomas Heine-Geldern, President of ACN International

Nigeria, Mexico, Haiti, and the list goes on

ACN is especially alarmed about the situation in Nigeria, where two of these murders and seven of the kidnappings have taken place. The circumstances of the attacks vary greatly, but just one example is that of Claretian Fr Izu Marcel Onyeocha, who was kidnapped on the night of April 10. He was driving to Owerri, in southern Nigeria, when his vehicle broke down, and when he got out to check it, a group presumed to be Fulani herders came out of the bush and attacked him with machetes. He was kidnapped, but released two days later.

Mexico is also suffering a high level of violence, and at least three priests and one catechist have been killed in separate incidents. In June a Franciscan priest, Fr Juan Antonio Orozco Alvarado, was killed on his way to celebrate Mass in the village of Tepehuana de Pajaritos, caught in an armed battle between rival gangs.

Such kidnappings and killings are occurring in a growing list of countries, including Venezuela, Peru, Haiti, the Philippines, Angola, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Uganda, Cameroon and Mali. Even in France, once considered a safe country, Fr Olivier Maire was murdered on 9 August by a man he was hosting in the missionaries’ house at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre while the suspect awaited trial on a charge of arson for setting fire to Nantes Cathedral.

“When security is fragile and everybody has left, the priests, religious and lay Catholic missionaries remain, and their dedication to serve others puts them in the line of fire. They need our prayers and support more than ever,” concluded Thomas Heine-Geldern.

Father Joseph Keke in Nigeria, abducted and released in June 2021.
Kidnappings leave significant psychological wounds.

From November 17 to 24, ACN is organizing #RedWeek. Over the course of the week, red light will bathe hundreds of cathedrals, churches, monuments and public buildings around the world as part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians and the need for religious freedom.

In Canada, #RedWednesday will get underway November 17. Many buildings – mainly religious – will be illuminated in red. There will also be organized prayer times, in conjunction with several organizations including the Archdioceses of Montreal and Toronto, the dioceses of Calgary and Québec city, the Salt + Light television network, the Radio VM (Radio Ville-Marie) network, the Choir of Angels and Ivan & Co. lighting.

Recent Posts