Catholic priest murdered in Nigeria

Catholic priest murdered in Nigeria

Catholic priest murdered in Nigeria

In this Saturday Feb. 7, 2015 file photo Nigeria police officers block a road in the city of Abuja, Nigeria. (Credit: AP.)

Unlike the Muslim-majority north of the country, where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram threatens the Christian community, the southeast of the country is predominantly Christian. However, the region is plagued by government corruption and violence. Armed gangs roam the region, and kidnappings for ransom are common.

A Catholic priest who was kidnapped on Friday morning in Nigeria has been found murdered.

Father Cyriacus Onunkwo was taken from his vehicle in the town of Orlu, in the state of Imo, located in the southeast of the country.

His body was discovered the next day in the neighboring village of Omuma.

“Although we are working on all leads over the matter. For now, it is a clear case of abduction and murder. If it was a case of kidnapping, his captives would have put a call across to anybody close to their victim and made a demand,” Chris Ezike, the state commissioner of police, told Vanguard, a local newspaper.

The police also found the priest’s car, and said nothing had been taken, and so far, no arrests have been made.

Unlike the Muslim-majority north of the country, where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram threatens the Christian community, the southeast of the country is predominantly Christian; the territory of the Diocese of Orlu is 70 percent Catholic.

However, the region is plagued by government corruption and violence. Armed gangs roam the region, and kidnappings for ransom are common. Imo state has one of the highest crime rates in the country.

In September 2016, the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference issued a statement calling on the government to do more to stem the rising tide of crime.

“Political violence, corruption, kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual murders and all ills of the past, are still very much present and we seem to be progressively sinking deeper into the mud. Our people are now ravaged by disease and hunger,” the statement reads. “The result is the rise in the curve of violence both by the state agents and non-state actors among our own people.”

Onunkwo is the second Catholic priest to be murdered in Nigeria this summer. In July, Father Raphael Pankyes was killed by three men in Plateau State, located in the center of the country.

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