Pastor Threatened with Execution in Nigeria Reportedly Freed
Thursday, Mar 04, 2021

Pastor Threatened with Execution in Nigeria Reportedly Freed

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Pastor Threatened with Execution in Nigeria Reportedly Freed

Screenshot of Pastor Bulus Yikura with ISWAP captor from prior video released in January 2021. (Morning Star News)

Screenshot of Pastor Bulus Yikura with ISWAP captor from prior video released in January 2021. (Morning Star News)

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Islamic terrorists who last week threatened to execute a pastor they abducted in northeast Nigeria reportedly freed him today.

Nigerian newspaper Premium Times reported today that pastor Bulus Yikura, a Church of the Brethren pastor abducted from Pemi village near Chibok, Borno state in an Islamic terrorist attack on Christmas Eve, was freed after Christians met ransom demands.

Citing security sources, the newspaper reported that Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram freed Pastor Yikura on Wednesday evening (March 3). A Premium Times correspondent in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, reported sighting Pastor Yikura at about 6:15 p.m. as he was taken to the office of Nigeria’s intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS).

The Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram, which in 2015 formally aligned with the Islamic State and changed its name to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), released a video last week in which the pastor said he would be executed by March 3 unless government and church officials met the kidnappers’ demands.

“On Wednesday, when he was asked to speak about his freedom, Mr. Yikura kept repeating, ‘I thank God, I thank God,’” Premium Times reported.

The Islamic State recognizes the ISWAP faction that broke away from Shekau in 2016 as its cell in the region, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and many Nigerians still refer to the Shekau-led faction of ISWAP by its original name, Boko Haram.

Efforts by the Church of the Brethren (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or EYN) and Pastor Yikura’s family resulted in his release, according to the Premium Times.

“Premium Times gathered from security sources that family members and the EYN church had been negotiating the release of the abducted pastor since last week,” the newspaper reported.

Prior to his release, Nigerian newspaper Sahara Reporters had reported that the Christian community in Borno state’s Chibok County had contributed money for ransom in order to secure the pastor’s release.

“Before we saw that video, we had started to take action to contribute money together,” a Christian leader told Sahara Reporters. “We have raised a substantial amount of money as ransom for our beloved pastor. When we saw that video, it only added to our depression. We want to meet Shekau or his men to give them the money. Please, let them collect the ransom and spare Pastor Bulus.”

The Chibok area Christian leaders issued a call for help to make contact with Shekau, saying they had the ransom money.

“We have the ransom. We are ready to pay it,” the Christian leader reportedly said. “Bulus’ wife has been in crisis. I still saw her last week, and she had serious depression.”

Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.

Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to the WWL report. In the 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.

In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”

On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

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