In the early hours of Sunday, Reverend Father Gabriel Ukeh, the parish priest of Saint Thomas Catholic Church in Zaman Dabo community, Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, was kidnapped by bandits. This disturbing incident has left the community in shock and fear.

According to a statement by Reverend Father Emmanuel Kazah, the Vicar General of the Kafanchan Catholic Diocese, the abduction occurred under cover of darkness, highlighting the growing insecurity plaguing the region. The diocese has called upon the faithful and the wider community to engage in fervent prayers for the swift and safe return of Father Ukeh.

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Father Kazah’s statement condemned the recurrent kidnappings and the terrorizing of innocent and defenseless citizens in the area. He emphasized the need for the government to enhance its security measures, particularly as the community approaches the celebration of Sallah.

This period, typically marked by peace and joy, is now overshadowed by fear and uncertainty due to the rampant criminal activities.

“We are deeply saddened and outraged by this act of abduction,” said Father Kazah. “It is a grave injustice that innocent citizens, particularly those dedicated to serving their communities, are being targeted and held for ransom. We call on the government to bolster its security intelligence and take decisive action to prevent such occurrences. Our communities deserve to live in peace without the constant threat of violence and kidnapping.”

The diocese is actively collaborating with security operatives to secure the immediate release of Father Ukeh. Father Kazah urged the community to remain calm and refrain from taking the law into their own hands. He assured that every legitimate means would be employed to ensure the safe return of the kidnapped priest.

“We understand the frustration and fear that this situation brings,” Father Kazah continued. “However, we must remain united and peaceful. Vigilante justice will only exacerbate the situation. We are committed to working with the authorities to bring Father Ukeh back safely.”

Father Kazah also invoked the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Priests and Religious, asking for divine intervention in securing the release of Father Ukeh and all others who have been abducted. “May Jesus, who suffered and was crucified, hear our prayers and hasten the unconditional release of His priest and every other abducted person,” he said.

This incident is part of a troubling trend of kidnappings in Kaduna State and other parts of Nigeria, where bandits and insurgents have increasingly targeted religious leaders, students, and ordinary citizens. The frequency and brazenness of these attacks have raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of the government’s security apparatus.

The abduction of Father Ukeh underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive strategy to address the security challenges facing the region. It calls for increased vigilance, community cooperation, and a commitment from the government to protect its citizens.

As the community rallies together in prayer and solidarity, there is a collective hope that Father Ukeh will soon be reunited with his parish and loved ones. The Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, alongside other religious and community leaders, continues to advocate for peace, justice, and the protection of all individuals from the scourge of kidnapping and violence.

The situation remains tense, and the community is urged to stay informed and supportive of the efforts being made to bring Father Ukeh back safely. In these trying times, the power of unity and faith is more crucial than ever.