The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement of condolence to the family of a Nigerian priest who was murdered in Nigeria last week. Anthony Idris Jata’u, a priest in the Nigerian Diocese of Sokoto, was kidnapped along with his family last Thursday by a group of unknown militants. Tragically, his body was discovered Saturday on the side of a road.
Archbishop Justin Welby, the worldwide head of the Anglican Church, told the Anglican Communion News Service he was “deeply distressed and saddened” by the news.
“My prayers and those of the whole community at Lambeth Palace are with the family of the Reverend Anthony Idris Jata’u, who grieve even as they continue to be held in captivity and great danger,” Archbishop Welby said. “May God draw near them in comfort, and bring the freedom and justice that are so urgently needed.”
We join in prayers for the family of Revd Anthony Idris Jata'u and for all who mourn his death. We pray for an end to such incidents https://t.co/gmtFGAJGCs
— Oxford PWM (@LivingFaithWW) February 14, 2019
The Archbishop concluded: “We pray too for the church led by the Reverend Jata’u, for all those suffering persecution for their faith, and for the whole nation of Nigeria, that Jesus Christ would light the path away from violence and towards peace.”
Jata’u, who had survived a previous kidnapping in 2006, was being held by kidnappers who demanded a ransom of 10 million Nigerian Naira, which equates just under $30,000. Reports indicate that Jata’u was from South Kaduna and had studied at the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary in Abeokuta, in Ogun State, prior to becoming ordained. He was on his way to a new posting in Katsina State when a number of gunmen opened fire on his car, forcing it to skid off the road.
Though security agencies are aware of the situation, there has been no further information released on the details surrounding the abduction, nor any updates on the welfare of the priest’s wife and children.
Abductions are common in Nigeria, with several priests and bishops being kidnapped for financial gain. In December of last year, the Bishop of Ahoada in Rivers State, Nigeria was taken captive. Clement Ekpeye was subsequently released five days after the initial abduction.
“We thank God for the miraculous release of Bishop Clement Ekpeye from the hands of the kidnappers this morning”, Canon Hanson Bernard, the Diocese of Ahoada’s Clerical Synod Secretary, said in a statement to The Vanguard newspaper at the time. “We thank all for fervent prayers and encouragement.”
We will keep you posted with any further updates on the Jata’u family as information becomes available.