By Vatican News staff writer
Armed men have kidnapped five Catholics, including a priest serving in Mali’s Mopti Diocese, Church officials said on Tuesday, in the latest incident of kidnapping in the West-African country.
Reports say that the group of five, including the Parish Priest of Ségué, Fr. Léon Douyon, was abducted about thirty kilometres North of Ségué, in the vicinity of Ouo on Monday while traveling to the town of San for the funeral of a priest.
The other members of the group include the village chief of Ségué, a deputy mayor and two other members of the community, said Fr. Alexis Dembélé, confirming the kidnapping. He also noted that the abduction was “a great concern for the Catholic community in Mali.”
Concern of the Church in Mali
In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop of Kayes and president of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, Bishop Jonas Dembélé expressed concern about the latest abduction.
He said that even though Mali has been going through difficult times, there have not been any incidents of kidnapping of priests, with the exception of Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, a Colombian nun working in Mali, who was seized by Islamist militants in February 2017.
Bishop Dembélé added that he does not suspect the kidnapping to be directly linked to the fact that they are Christians since there have not been any targeted attacks against the Church.
He, however, assured that the Church in Mali is praying for the release of the group and will continue to engage in efforts directed at interreligious dialogue in order to promote peace in the country.
Mali has experienced an increase in violence involving both civilians and the military in the past years. Kidnappings have increased in frequency with militants seeking for ransom or to exert political pressure.
Also, inter-communal violence, as well as insurgencies led by Islamist extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic state have left several thousands dead and forced many to flee.
To boot, the nation saw two coups in the span of nine months after Colonel Assimi Goita first ousted the country’s elected president in August last year, and recently, the civilian leaders who were appointed to lead the country’s transitional government.
The move by the country’s military has drawn criticism from different quarters, including the Bishops who, in a collective statement issued in May, urged for constructive dialogue on the path toward peace following the resignation of the interim President and Prime Minister.