Father Christopher Ogaga was abducted on Saturday evening as he traveled from Okpe to Warri, where he was scheduled to celebrate Mass at Mother of Redeemer Catholic Church on Sunday morning. The kidnappers are reported to be asking for a ransom of over 15 million Naira (about $40,000).
Fr. Ogaga is also parish priest of St. Luke church and St. Jude church, both in Okpe area.
The kidnapping happened in the same district where a Catholic church collapsed on Sunday, 2 September, killing one person and injuring several others. This is the St. Paul Catholic Church in Okpe. The victim is an 11-year-old boy.
For years, priests and religious have been targets of kidnapping for ransom by criminal gangs in Nigeria, even in predominantly Christian areas like Delta State.
In January, the Nigerian Bishops denounced “the plague of kidnappings for ransom that has reached unimaginable proportions”. In a statement they wrote that “day after day citizens are kidnapped, humiliated and traumatized by heavily armed gangs. The kidnappers are merciless. In their efforts to obtain large sums of money they subject their victims to unspeakable violence lasting weeks or even months”.
Meanwhile prayers are being held for a Chinese priest who has been missing for eight months.
Father Lu Danhua was taken away by personnel from Qingtian Religious Affairs Bureau at the priests’ dormitory of Qingtian Catholic Church in Zhejiang province last December and has not returned.
Underground Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou has initiated fasting and a Mass for the safety of Father Lu on the 29th day of each month, the date the priest went missing.
Bishop Shao and church members in Wenzhou have enquired about Father Lu’s whereabouts through various channels but without success.
The bishop has called on the faithful to fast, join Mass and recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet while praying for the priest’s strong faith, good health and return.
Bishop Shao was taken away by authorities in May 2017 but was released in January after prayers by the faithful in Wenzhou Diocese.
Father Lu is the only priest in sparsely populated Lishui Diocese, which is adjacent to Wenzhou.
“He has wholeheartedly taken care of the churches in Qingtian, Leishi, Dalu, Wanshan and Jingning in the diocese. He is willing to serve the weak. The church members are full of praise for his enthusiastic pastoral care,” a source said.
When he was taken away, bureau personnel said they just wanted a brief chat, but he remains missing and calls to his mobile phone have not been answered. Authorities later said Father Lu had been taken to Wenzhou to study new religious regulations and that he would return after legal registration.