ROME – After three months, Colombia’s government has given up on negotiations for the release of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez, kidnapped in Mali by jihadists four years ago.
“We are very sad, because about a three months ago the government authorized sending an aid commission to help negotiate her release,” said Narváez’s brother, Edgar. “They worked very hard there and things were looking very good, but my surprise was when they called me from Africa to tell me that the delegation was going back to Colombia.”
The commission was supposed to stay until August, but its work was suspended overnight, and the family of the kidnapped nun was given no explanation as to why. They were also not told who had ordered the mission stopped.
Edgar told a Colombian radio station that the latest news he had received about his sister came in February, through a letter sent through the International Red Cross in which the nun wrote that she was now being kept by a group called “Support to the Jihadists.”
Narváez was kidnapped Feb. 7, 2017 by the Support Front for Islam and Muslims (SGIM), a jihadist terrorist organization linked to Al-Qaeda. She was abducted in the village of Karangasso, in the southern Region of Sikasso.
The Colombian sister has not been heard from since September 2018 when her kidnappers released a video as “proof of life,” in which she was seen asking for Pope Francis to intervene on her behalf. Also featured in the video was 75-year-old French doctor, Sophie Pétronin, who was her companion during most of her captivity.
The doctor was released last October.
“The information we have about Sister Gloria Cecilia’s state of health was provided by former hostage Sophie Petronin. The release of Sophie and other hostages was a sign of hope for us. It mobilized us again to pray and act for the sister’s release,” Father Alexandre Denou, general secretary of the bishops’ conference of Mali, told the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need after the doctor was released.
At a press conference at the Villacoublay military airport in Paris, Prétonin spoke about her release, saying that she’d found out she was going to be let go in the early hours of Oct. 5, when one of the two jihadists guarding the hostages told her: “Take your things, you’re leaving.”
Narváez reportedly asked what would be her future, to which the jihadist replied: “You stay for later!”
In Paris, Pétronin demanded that “something must be done for my roommate, Gloria, because she is not well.”
Since her kidnapping, according to the French doctor, Narváez has been in the desert, alternating among 33 different camps of the jihadist group, which has been detrimental to her health.
Pétronin also invited everyone to continue to “ask for prayers for our sister, for the support that you can give us, because we need to raise the voice of freedom, not only for Gloria, but for all the kidnapped Catholics, for believers and non-believers in the world.”
Narváez had worked in Karangasso for 12 years, but had taken her firs steps as a missionary in southern Mexico, in Apatzingán, in the state of Michoacán. After special preparation, she was sent to Boukoumbé, Benin, still as an educator. Six years later, the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate sent her to be responsible for the work in Karangasso.
In Mali, the Franciscan sisters carry out missionary service at a health center, in an orphanage, and at a women’s center.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma