JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A pastor abducted in northeastern Nigeria was released on Friday (Oct. 30), while Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nasarawa state have kidnapped a 6-year-old Christian boy after killing his father, sources said.
Militants from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorist group released Polycarp Zongo, kidnapped on Oct. 19, after negotiations that were undisclosed. Members of his Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) notified Morning Star News of his release.
Zongo was kidnapped along with two Christian women as they traveled from his church base in Jos, Plateau state to attend a COCIN conference in the city of Gombe, in the state of the same name, according to his statements in a video released on Thursday (Oct. 29) by ISWAP. There was no word on the fate of the abducted women.
His wife learned of his release on Friday night, and a prayer vigil held nightly since his capture turned into a festival of praise and worship at his residence.
“Praise to the Lord, thanks for praying so earnestly,” Gideon Para-Malam told Morning Star News Friday night. “He’s not yet in Jos, but [there is] much joy in the hearts of his congregation and others of us.”
ISWAP in 2016 broke off from the rebel terrorist group Boko Haram.
In north-central Nigeria’s Nasarawa state, 6-year-old Isaiah Okunu remains captive after Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed his father and abducted him and his mother from their home in Nasarawa Town on Oct. 24.
Isaiah’s mother was released five days later. The family belongs to the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA).
After initially demanding the family pay 10 million naira (US$26,212), the herdsmen have lowered their demand to 3 million naira (US$7,865) in ransom, Mohammed Sani Otto, council chairman of Nasarawa Local Government Area, told Morning Star News.
Kidnappings and murders of Christians in Nasarawa state have become common. Atso Caleb, a pastor in Nasarawa state, told Morning Star News by text message that armed herdsmen attacked the Christian community of Gada Biyu on Aug. 24.
“I was moved to tears seeing the number of Christians in desperate need of help,” Pastor Caleb said. “Many Christians here are victims of herdsmen’s incessant attacks that have since made farming a risky venture in our villages.”
Pastor John Attah of Lafia, Nasarawa state said his church was attacked by a knife-wielding Muslim on Aug. 10 at about 9 p.m. during a prayer meeting.
“A Muslim man by the name Umar attacked us in our church hall at Threshing Floor Watchman Assembly, Akhan Street, Bukan Sidi area of Lafia,” Pastor Attah said. “The knife-wielding Muslim man tried stabbing two of our ministers, but God held his hand against his intention.”
Police are holding the suspect in custody in Lafia, he said.
“The Muslim made inflammatory statements by saying that he will surely return to destroy the church auditorium, and nothing will happen to him,” Pastor Attah said. “Please be in prayer with us so that God will prevail over the numerous attacks coming against His church.”
On Aug. 4 armed herdsmen killed an elder with the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC), Benjamin Ekom, in Washo village of Akun Development Area, said Rose Ekom, his sister.
“Our brother and his family were about to sleep after listening to the 9 p.m. network news when they heard noise from people trying to break into the house,” she told Morning Star News. “He quickly went to check out what was happening when armed Fulani herdsmen attacked him with machetes. They cut him and thought he was dead before they retreated.”
Ekom told her how he was attacked by Fulani herdsmen before he died at a Catholic hospital in Akwanga town, in Nasarawa state, she said.
Islamic terrorists from both ISWAP and Boko Haram routinely mount roadblocks on major highways in the northeast, stopping vehicles to take Christians into captivity.
They use some of the captured Christians for negotiations with the Nigerian government to get more funds for their arms and operations. In cases when such negotiations fail, the male Christian victims are often executed and the women are held as sex slaves.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.