Pastor, Three Other Christians Kidnapped in Central Nigeria 

Assailants ambush them on highway.

The Rev. Alia Hyacinth called for kidnapped pastor's release. (Facebook, Friendsoffraliahyacinth)

The Rev. Alia Hyacinth, governor of Benue state, called for the release of the Rev. Haanongon Gideon. (Facebook, Friendsoffraliahyacinth)

ABUJA, Nigeria (Christian Daily InternationalMorning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists kidnapped a pastor and three other Christians on Saturday (Jan. 13) in central Nigeria, sources said.

The Rev. Haanongon Gideon, a pastor and council member of Ukum Local Government Area in Benue state, and the three others were ambushed on the Katsina-Ala-Zaki Biam Highway, said Jonathan Modi, Secretary of the Ukum Local Government Council.

The pastor and his personal assistant, Ior Silas Yuhwam, along with his driver and a police orderly, were kidnapped near Anyagba, Tongov, in Katsina-Ala County, at about 6:30 a.m. while on their way to attend a burial, Modi said.

“The council hereby advises all her citizens to remain calm and be law-abiding, while measures are in place to make sure the chairman regains his freedom,” he said.

Benue state spokesman Matthew Abo, a resident of the area, confirmed the kidnapping in a text message to Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

“Rev. Haanongon Gideon…was on his way to Katsina-Ala town when he, together with three of his aides, were ambushed and kidnapped by armed Muslim terrorists,” Abo said.

The Rev. Hyacinth Alia, governor of Benue state, called for the release of Pastor Gideon while speaking at the funeral the kidnapped church leader was en route to attend on Saturday (Jan. 13).

Superintendent of Police Catherine Anene police said she had received a report about the incident, “and security personnel have been deployed to track the terrorists and rescue the victims.”

Christian and community leaders across Benue state say terrorist attacks in the state have become widespread, with cases reported daily. Emmanuel Odeh, an area community leader told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News that such attacks have taken place in Logo, Gwer West, Ukum, Guma, Katsina-Ala, Gboko, Makurdi, Okpokwu, Ogbadibo, Otukpo, Ugbokolo, Otukpa, Orokam, and others.

“Christians have become vulnerable to these attacks,” Odeh said. “The invaders use forests and mountainous areas as bases for their operations and nefarious activities, and security agents know this. Truth is, they lack the will to curtail these terrorist activities.”

More kidnappings of Christians took place in Nigeria, with 3,300, than any other country, and it remained the deadliest place to follow Christ, with 4,118 people killed for their faith from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023, according to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) report.

Nigeria was also the third highest country in number of attacks on churches and other Christian buildings such as hospitals, schools, and cemeteries, with 750, according to the report.

In the 2024 WWL of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria was ranked No. 6, as it was in the previous year.

Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.

“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.

Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.

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