Catholic priest in Cameroon reportedly kidnapped by separatists

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff for CNA

Msgr. Julius Agbortoko, vicar general of Cameroon’s Mamfe diocese, who was abducted by separatists on Aug. 29, 2021. / Diocese of Mamfe/Facebook.

Douala, Cameroon, Aug 31, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Separatists reportedly kidnapped the vicar general of a Catholic diocese in the troubled Southwest Region of Cameroon on Sunday.

ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, reported that Msgr. Julius Agbortoko was seized on Aug. 29.

Fr. Sebastine Sinju, chancellor of the Diocese of Mamfe, said in an Aug. 30 statement: “It is with a very heavy heart that I bring to your notice the sudden abduction of Msgr. Julius Agbortoko, yesterday, Sunday, Aug. 29.”

He explained that the priest had traveled to the village of Kokobuma “for a pastoral visitation and the inauguration of the presbytery of the parish.”

But shortly before 6 p.m., around 30 minutes after he had returned to his residence, “some young men who identified themselves as separatist fighters bumped into the Major Seminary compound and made their way straight to the residence of [82-year-old] Bishop Lysinge,” the chancellor said.

“While there, they noticed the presence of the vicar general, whom they considered younger and stronger than the frail bishop emeritus.”

“The said boys who made off with Msgr. Julius Agbortoko at about 6:45 p.m. are asking for a ransom of over 20 million francs CFA [around $36,000].”

Sinju appealed for prayers for the vicar general’s release.

“I call on all of you to invoke the One Family Spirit and pray unanimously for his safety and his subsequent release,” he said.

Separatists have operated in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon — the Southwest and Northwest — since 2016, when the Anglophone region was plunged into crisis after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent.

Armed separatists declared that they were establishing the Federal Republic of Ambazonia, an independent state comprising the Southwest and Northwest Regions. They have carried out abductions and attacks while battling government forces.

Separatists kidnapped another priest of the Mamfe diocese in May. Fr. Christopher Eboka was freed after 10 days of captivity.

In November last year, fighters also seized Cardinal Christian Tumi, freeing him a day later.

Twelve other people, including Fon Sehm Mbinglo II, the traditional chief of the Nso tribe, were kidnapped alongside the cardinal, who died in April this year.

Separatists also abducted Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua, the now retired archbishop of Bamenda, in June 2019 and Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo in August 2019.

In his Aug. 30 statement, Fr. Sinju lamented attacks on the Catholic Church and appealed for an end to the conflict.

“I use this opportunity to decry the seemingly incessant attacks on the Church in general and that of Mamfe in particular,” he said.

“Could the stakeholders of the ongoing armed conflict kindly hands off the Church, for God’s sake.”

“May Mary, the Mother of Priests and the Queen of Peace, intercede for us,” he concluded.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, written by Jude Atemanke. It has been adapted by CNA.

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