French church attack survivor describes ordeal
An 87-year-old man forced to video the graphic murder of his priest in a church in northern France two months ago has spoken of his ordeal.
Guy Coponet was stabbed three times – including once in the throat – and left for dead, after two young Islamists had used him to help capture their murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel, 85, during Mass at the Saint-Étienne Church in the small town of Saint-Étienne du Rouvray, south of Rouen, on 26 July.
“The two young killers grabbed me, put a camera in my hands and said, ‘Grandpa, you film!’” Coponet told the French website, Famille Chretienne, who also interviewed his wife, Janine. “They even checked the quality of the images and made sure I was not shaking, too. I had to film the assassination of my friend Father Jacques! I am still traumatised by it, I can’t move on.”
“They stabbed me three times – in the arm, back and throat,” he added. “The emergency doctor who treated me told me, ‘There was a divine hand on you because none of the stabs hit a vital organ. But they really were not far away. It's like a miracle!’”
Saint-Étienne Church will reopen on Sunday (2 Oct.) with a special ceremony. Pope Francis has already hailed Fr. Hamel as a “martyr”.
Nigeria: Priest kidnapped by herdsmen
A priest was kidnapped and two others injured in south-eastern Nigeria on Monday (26 Sep.).
Fr. Emmanuel Dim, Rector of the Tansi Major Seminary in Anambra, was travelling with two other priests when some heavily armed men blocked their car, at around 7pm (on the Nkpologwu/Nimbo Road in Enugu State), said Fr. Hyginus Aghaulor, Director of Communication for Anambra’s Nnewi Diocese.
“The three priests were returning from Nsukka to Onitsha and Nnewi, when they were attacked,” said Fr. Aghaulor. The two other priests were injured but they managed to escape.
Fr. Ezeokana, who teaches both at the Major Seminary of Onitsha and at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, was slightly injured, while Fr. Chukwuemeka, Chaplin at Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Nnewi), was shot in the head and has been admitted to hospital.
Fr. Dim is still being held by the herdsmen-kidnappers, who are demanding a ransom of N2.5 million (US$8,000).
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has decided and directed that ransom should not be paid for the kidnap of any of its priests,” said Fr. Aghaulor.
Kidnapping of prominent persons by armed men, in exchange for money, is recurrent in Nigeria.
Another priest, whose name is yet to be confirmed, was also kidnapped on the same day (26 Sep.), along with his brother, while they were travelling on the Abuja–Lokoja Expressway.
“One begins to wonder if Catholic priests have become an endangered species,” said Fr. Aghaulor, who accused the South East Governors of not doing enough to protect the people they are governing from the violence of the Fulani herdsmen.
“While innocent people are left unprotected, we have seen [a] barrage of military wares and personnel protecting the pipelines in Niger Delta, as if oil is more important than people's [lives],” he said. “Why should people be killed without provocation in their own traditional lands?”
Iranians still don’t know why they were arrested
Five Iranian Christians arrested last month in the Alborz Mountains north-east of Tehran still haven’t been told why they are being detained, nor have they been allowed any visitors – not even lawyers.
Amin Afshar Naderi, Ramil Bet-Tamraz, Hadi Asgari, Mohammad Dehnavi and Amir Saman Dashti were arrested on 26 Aug. Their families initially didn’t know where they had been taken, though eventually three of them were permitted to phone home, according to Mohabat News. They reportedly said they are being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Mohabat says their families are concerned the Iranian authorities may try to fabricate charges against them or pressure them to confess to having committed a crime. Some of them have also reportedly been fired from their jobs for being off work for so long.