KADUNA, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) - Four Nigerian seminarians, whose names were not released, were kidnapped Jan. 8 by gunmen garbed in military camouflage.
"After [a] head count of students with security agents, four seminarians have been declared missing. Kindly say a prayer for their release," said Fr. Joel Usman, registrar of Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria.
The gunmen entered the seminary around 10:30 p.m. and acted for thirty minutes, according to Fr. Usman.
Umar Muri, the police commissioner in Kaduna State, visited the seminary to say the police were on the case and would secure the seminarians' release.
"The bandits accessed the school dormitory where 268 students were being accommodated," said Yakubu Sabo, a police spokesman.
Nigerian-born Obianuju Ekeocha, founder and president of Culture of Life Africa and an international pro-life speaker and strategist, tweeted the news with pictures of the four seminarians.
3days ago in Kaduna Nigeria the Catholic Seminary-Good Shepherd Major Seminary, was attacked by terrorists and these 4 seminarians were kidnapped.— Obianuju Ekeocha (@obianuju) January 11, 2020
The persecution of Christians continues in the most vicious ways and most of the world ignores it.
Please pray for these young men. pic.twitter.com/r0ThizQKrE
The names of the seminarians have not been disclosed for security reasons, a Nigerian source told the Association for Catholic Information in Africa (ACIA).
Some are blaming Islamist group Boko Haram for the kidnapping. Boko Haram seeks to impose Sharia Law on the nation, accounting for the majority of religious tension and violence in the region.
"It is, unfortunately, a continuation of the string of Boko Haram strategies," one Nigerian source told the ACIA. "They are now called bandits, kidnappers, etc."
Church Militant spoke about the abduction with a Nigerian contact who preferred to remain anonymous. In a charitable spirit, she cautioned not to jump to conclusions without the facts.
"Until one has the actual facts of what transpired, we can't really say for sure. Not every crime can be attributed to religious tension," she said.
Whether Boko Haram is responsible for the kidnappings of the four seminarians, the Islamist persecution of Christians in Nigeria has been on the rise, along with clergy abductions.
Father Felix Efobi and Fr. Joseph Nweke were kidnapped and released in December and Fr. Arinze Madu was kidnapped and held for two weeks before being released in mid-November, accounting for a total of 11 priests being reported as kidnapped in 2019.
In December, Boko Haram released a video showing the beheading of 11 Christians.
In one month alone — from February to March 2019 — 250 Christians were reported murdered in Nigeria, contributing to a global trend of Christian persecution.
Open Doors notes the "staggering" impact of Boko Haram on Nigeria: "In just a small sample of the damage inflicted on the Christian community, a single geographic area has seen 5,000 Catholic Christians killed and 100,000 Catholic Christians displaced."
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) posted a picture on Facebook of the four seminarians kidnapped and asked for prayers: "Let us pray for them: We pray for the speedy release of our seminarians. May God save them, Amen!"
The East African reported that another armed kidnapping occurred on Jan. 9. Four Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officers were abducted at a checkpoint in Dan-Bedi, a village in northwestern Africa.
NCS released a statement saying "the bandits on motorcycles arrived [at] the customs checkpoint and seized the officers' weapons and shot sporadically to scare residents and kidnapped the officers alongside many motorists who were on their way to Batsari."
Church Militant reached out to Good Shepherd Major Seminary, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria and the archdiocese of Kaduna for comment on the seminarians' abduction, but received no response as of press time.