A Nigerian archbishop has urged authorities to intensify their investigation of six nuns who remain missing after being kidnapped in November.
“It is disheartening that the security agencies have not been able to get the sisters out,” said Archbishop Alfred Martin of Lagos at a news conference on January 2, according to the Nigerian Premium Times.
“We still do hope that the security agencies would do much more than is being done now to ensure that the sisters are released,” Martin said.
Three professed nuns, Sister Roseline Isiocha, Sister Aloysius Ajayi and Sister Frances Udi, and three young aspirants in the process of formation were kidnapped by unknown gunmen on Nov. 13.
According to Vatican News, the women were taken from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Convent in Igouriakhi in the Southern Nigerian state of Edo.
“Today is the 48th day that the sisters have been in the hands of the kidnappers. It has been a big source of worry and concern knowing that they are women,” Martin said. Kidnapped woman in Nigeria have frequently been reported to be the victims of sexual assault.
Although the motives of the kidnappers remain unknown, violence against Christians has become commonplace in some parts of Nigeria. In 2014, jihadist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, and the group has displaced or killed thousands of Nigerians.
In December, Nigeria’s episcopal conference decried the nuns’ kidnapping, calling it a product of the “agents of darkness.” The bishops appealed to the kidnappers to release the six nuns.
“We are saddened and pained by the continued detention of our daughters, the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,” read a December 15 statement from the bishops. “We appeal to those holding them to please heed our appeal and immediately release them.”
On the following Sunday, Pope Francis united himself to the cause of the bishops, emphasizing his commitment to prayer for their safe return and his shared grief over the nuns’ absence.
“I pray with insistence for them, and for all the other people who find themselves in this painful situation,” said Pope Francis after the Angelus on Dec. 17.