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The dangerous environment of a kidnapped archbishop

The dangerous environment of a kidnapped archbishop

Jesse Zink’s forthcoming book Backpacking through the Anglican Communion includes a section that helps provide some background on the circumstances in which Archbishop Ignatius Kattey, who was kidnapped with his wife, Beatrice, on Friday do their work. (The archbishop’s wife was reportedly left behind in the archbishop’s car after a police chase.)

Zink describes a visit to the same region in Nigeria where the archbishop was kidnapped. He writes:

Oliver, my host in Umuahia, was deeply concerned for my safety. Trinity College is on the edge of town, and on a trip into town to see a church-run school, Oliver made sure two seminarians rode in the car with us, “just in case anything happens.” (It was never clear to me what the seminarians would do if we were accosted.) I was in Umuahia about three months after national elections that had left this part of the country unstable and its people frightened. Discontent with politicians had led many young men to join gangs. They roamed the region kidnapping people and holding them for ransom on almost a daily basis. “These gangs say that they are just doing what the politicians do—cheating and stealing to get ahead,” Oliver said. When we visited a distant, rural part of the diocese, Oliver cut short our visit and sped home to be back before dusk. I appreciated the concern but I wondered if it was not too much. I regretted that there were places it was deemed unsafe to visit. I asked Oliver if it was all really necessary. “Two weeks ago,” he replied, “a young girl was raped and murdered not far from Trinity’s main entrance.” I thought of his own young children. Everyone was on edge, and rightly so.

In Owerri, there had been this same undercurrent of concern and fear. In contrast to Juba [South Sudan] or Gulu [Uganda], where I wandered relatively freely around town, I was kept on a short leash. Cyril would not let me go anywhere without a priest wearing at least a collar and preferably a cassock. At one point during our visit to the cathedral in Awka, I wandered out the front door to take a picture of the whole building without telling anyone. It was as if the Queen of England had gone missing, such were the alarms my absence set off. When Solomon, Cyril’s driver, tracked me down—I had been absent for all of three minutes—and brought me back, Cyril reprimanded me and told me that Awka’s market, abutting the cathedral grounds, is a dangerous place, known for its kidnappings and crime. Anything could have happened to me.


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