Kidnappings are a hallmark of terrorist organizations in Nigeria, including Boko Haram and Islamic State-West Africa Province, and clergy are increasingly being targeted. For more than a month in Spring 2021, Father Bako Francis Awesuh, 37, priest at St. John Paul II parish in Gadanaji, Kachia local government area, in Kaduna state, was held captive by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, who stand accused of deadly attacks on Christian farmers along Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Father Awesuh described his ordeal in a recent interview with Aid to the Church in Need.
“It happened May 16, at exactly 11 pm. I heard gunshots and I quickly turned off the television set. Turning off the light, I saw shadows and heard footsteps. I carefully opened the curtain to see what was going on. I saw five bulky Fulani herdsmen who were well-armed, I recognized them by their dress and by the way they spoke. I stood there confused, not knowing what to do, as I felt completely lost. There was a knock on the door. My legs went cold and my body stiff. I was sweating profusely.
“They kept on knocking, but, afraid, I refused to open the door. They broke down the door and forced themselves inside. One of the men pushed me to the floor, tied me up and flogged me mercilessly, saying ka ki ka bude mana kofa da tsori (‘you are getting tortured because you kept us standing outside for so long and refused to open the door when we were knocking’). They stripped me naked down to my shorts.
“Together with ten of my parishioners, we were kidnapped. We trekked for three days in the bush with no food or water, being fed only on mangos. We were hungry, tired, and weak and our legs hurt a lot and our feet were swollen as we trekked barefoot. There was rain on the second and third days, but we had to keep moving.
“On the third day, we arrived at a camp deep in the forest. In that camp, there was a small hut where they kept us. On arrival, we were served rice with oil and salt, like prisoners. That was our food routine throughout our stay in the bush. The women who were kidnapped along with me were doing the cooking. We spent one month and five days in the bush.
Read more at Aleteia