The diocese of Mamfe in the Southwest Region of Cameroon has had its fair share of the 5-year long armed conflict going on in the English-speaking part of the country. The diocese made headlines, for the wrong reasons, in June 21, 2018when Rev Fr Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Mill Hill Missionary priest from Kenya serving at the time in St Martin of Tours Parish Kembong was gunned down by the state security forces.

The latest on the scene is the abduction of the Vicar General of the diocese of Mamfe – Mgr Julius Agbortoko.

An official report from the Chancellor of the diocese says that Mgr Julius was forcefully taken in the evening of Sunday, August 29, 2021, by armed men “who identified themselves as separatist fighters”.

The communique further states that the Vicar General who had just returned from a pastoral visit to Kokobuma was in the residence of Bishop Francis Teke Lysinge, Emeritus Bishop of Mamfe when the kidnappers bumped into them. From every indication, their target was the bishop but they ended up taking Mgr Julius instead as Bishop Lysinge was too frail to go with them.

The kidnappers are said to be asking for a ransom of FCFA 20M (R540,541) for the release of the Vicar General.

Fr Sebastien Sinju, Chancellor of the Diocese of Mamfe, condemned the kidnapping of Mgr Julius Agbortoko in the official document: “Could the stakeholders of the ongoing armed conflict kindly hands off the Church, for God’s sake”.

The abduction of Mgr Julius was the second of its kind in the Diocese of Mamfe to occur this year. Fr. Christopher Eboka, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Mamfe and Station Manager of Radio Evangelium was also kidnapped on May 22, 2021, by a faction of the ARFs and kept hostage for 9 days.

This recent episode in the armed conflict raging in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon has attracted widespread condemnation from the clergy and lay-faithful of not just the diocese of Mamfe but the entire Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda.

The outcry from the people in the two regions of the troubled English-speaking part of Cameroon and beyond and the incessant prayers offered up for the release of Mgr Julius Agbortoko yielded fruits as he was released on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.

It is worth noting that the ransom demanded for his release was not also paid.

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