Missionaries of Africa, Fr Paul Sanogo (left) with seminarian Dominic Mahinini immediately after their release 23.08.2023. Missionaries of Africa, Fr Paul Sanogo (left) with seminarian Dominic Mahinini immediately after their release 23.08.2023. 

Nigeria: Abducted priest and seminarian released from captivity.

Father Paul Sanogo of Mali and seminarian Dominic Merikiory Mahinini, a Tanzanian, abducted by criminals three weeks ago from their parish residence in in Nigeria have been set free.

Serge Zihalirwa Boroto, M.Afr. - Vatican City.

The two missionaries are members of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers). They were released on the night of 23 August 2023.

Thank you for your prayers

In a statement, the Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of Africa (M.Afr.) in Ghana-Nigeria, Fr Dennis Dashong Pam, announced the release of the missionaries.

“It is with great joy that I inform you about the regained freedom of my two brothers today, the 23 August 2023, Fr Paul Sanogo from Mali and Brother Melchior Mahinini from Tanzania, who were kidnapped on Wednesday the 2 August 2023 at night in our community in Gyedna, Minna Diocese, Niger State, Nigeria. They are both fine, alive and healthy despite the traumatising experience they went through in the hands of their abductors during their time of captivity for the last 3 weeks.” 

Fr Dennis Dashong Pam thanked the people for their prayers and moral support.

"We asked for your moral support and prayers. Their release is a confirmation of your fervent prayers and support. That is why I come back to you all in appreciation for being there for us during this dark, difficult and trying moment,” said Fr Pam.

Relief among the Missionaries of Africa

Superior General of the Missionaries Africa, Fr Stan Lubungo
Superior General of the Missionaries Africa, Fr Stan Lubungo

Speaking to Vatican News, the Superior General of the Missionaries Africa, Fr Stan Lubungo, confirmed the news of the release and spoke of his joy and relief for the safe return of the two missionaries. 

“Yes, we are very happy. I can effectively confirm that our confreres were liberated. The news came at 01.00 early this morning. It was the Provincial who informed me that our confreres had joined the others. So, I can confirm that we are very happy, and I take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been praying for their liberation. I am very happy, and just like many of our confreres, we feel relieved. We have been thinking very much about their families who have been unable to sleep; it has been three weeks! So, a lot of relief really, and we hope our confreres are in good health, but that is not our preoccupation; they will surely be looked after,” he said.

The release of Fr. Sanogo and seminarian Mahinini has also brought joy to the Diocese of Minna in Nigeria, where the two were working. Their home Dioceses in Mali and Tanzania have equally expressed delight that the two missionaries have regained their freedom. 

The silent suffering of families

At the time of the abductions in Mali, Bishop Robert Cissé of the Catholic Diocese of Sikasso went in person to visit the family of Father Sanogo to encourage them during this challenging moment of their son’s captivity.

Upon hearing the news of the release, Bishop Joseph Roman Mlola of the Catholic Diocese of Kigoma in Tanzania issued a statement thanking the faithful for their prayers.

He thanked God for listening to the prayers of all the faithful. Then, he extended appreciation to the Government of Tanzania and the Nigerian embassy in Tanzania for their efforts in the background. Bishop Mlola paid further tribute to the parents and family of the seminarian in Kigoma Diocese, Dominic Merikiory Mahinini, for their patience and fervent prayers during the ordeal endured by their son. The Kigoma Bishop said he had also been moved by Tanzanian media because they kept alive the story and became the voice of the voiceless.

What next for the mission in Nigeria?

Asked about the presence of Missionaries of Africa in Gyedna, Nigeria, after this terrible experience, the Superior General, Fr Stan Lubungo, reaffirmed the intention of the congregation to continue the mission entrusted to them. 

“We went there for the people that are in this place. It is not easy to say at this moment, but this is a new place which we are still putting up. And our wish is, of course, to continue. We know that we have the support of the people with whom we share life. And these things are sadly part of the experiences that people are going through. And so, we will see in what state of mind our confreres are, but it is our intention to continue to be there,” he said.

Let us pray for Fr Ha-Jo Lohre

Fr Lubungo further prayed and invited everyone to continue praying for all hostages forcibly separated from their families, loved ones and friends. Specifically, he requested prayers for Fr Hans-Joachim Lohre, aka Fr Ha-Jo Lohre. The German Missionary of Africa priest has been in captivity since November 2022. He was abducted in Mali.

“Indeed, as the news came this morning, our thoughts also went to our confrere Ha-Jo, who is still in captivity, and we don’t have a lot of news about him. We continue praying for him and hope that one day, sooner than later, we will be able to celebrate his liberation. I invite each and everyone to continue praying for him,” said Fr Lubungo.

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25 August 2023, 10:31