The body of one of two Catholic priests kidnapped on Friday (July 15) in Kaduna state, Nigeria, was recovered Tuesday morning (July 19), sources said.
The Rev. John Mark Cheitnum was director of communications of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan. Kidnapped at gunpoint from the parish rectory of Christ the King Catholic Church in Yalding Garu, Lere County along with the Rev. Donatus Cleopas Sulaiman, Cheitnum was killed while Sulaiman was able to escape, according to the Kafanchan diocese.
“The Rev. Fr. Donatus Cleophas escaped from his abductors and has reunited with us,” said the Rev. Emmanuel Uchechukwu Okolo, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, in a press statement. “However, it is with a deep sense of sorrow and pain that the bishop, clergy and laity of the Diocese of Kafanchan announce the gruesome murder of Very Rev. Fr. John Mark Cheitnum.”
Cheitnum served as priest at St. James Parish in Fori, Jema’a Local Government Area, according to the diocese.
The Kaduna state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Rev. John Joseph Hayab, said Cheitnum had served as the CAN chairman of the Jema’a Local Government Area as well Southern Kaduna CAN coordinator.
Cheitnum’s body was found in the wilderness on Tuesday morning, four area residents told Morning Star News by text message. One resident, Bitrus Defend, asked why terrorists target church leaders.
“It is hard, but we pray that may the ever loving and merciful God rest your soul in the peace of Heaven, till we meet at Jesus’ feet, padre,” Defend said, while area resident Comfort Bwans said, “Oh, Rev. John Mark, your killers will not know peace. They shall suffer for the rest of their lives. May God accept your soul.”
In Kujama, Kaduna state, another Catholic priest was killed on June 25, according to the Rev. Moses Bonugada, a Catholic priest in Chikun County. He said the Rev. Vitus Bogoro was killed by “armed bandits” as he worked on his farm.
Bogoro’s brother, Cyril Borogo, was kidnapped in the assault, Bonugada said.
On July 4, such “bandits” abducted the Rev. Emmanuel Silas of St. Charles Catholic Church, Zambina, Kauru County, Kaduna state, Bonugada said. He said 18 Catholic priests have been kidnapped thus far in 2022.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.
Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.
In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.