West & Central Africa

Church workers charged with abduction of Mali Nun

Four Malians have appeared before a judge in Mali charged with the kidnapping of of Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, a Colombian Franciscan nun in her fifties, on 7 February.

Prosecutor General Boubacar Sidiki Samake said the four men claimed to be Islamic militants in Karangasso, Southern Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso. Gloria is believed to have been abducted at the Mary Immaculate Catholic Church where she had worked for the greater part of her 12 years in Africa.

The four men were charged with criminal association, unlawful possession of weapons and terrorism-related kidnapping. Two of the suspects were drivers from the Karangasso parish.

A report says, the drivers are staff of the Catholic church who drive an ambulance which was used to kidnap the nun. The cook of the Catholic community of Karangasso was also among those arrested.

Meanwhile the Catholic bishops of Mali are appealing to the public to help find Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti. “We are exploring all possible paths to obtain Sister Cecilia’s release and are calling upon the faithful to keep praying for her,” Father Edmond Dembele, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Mali said.

“Some people believe that bandits in the area kidnapped the sister in the hope of getting a ransom, and now do not know how to handle the situation.Others believe jihadists kidnapped her,” Father Dembele said.

The church where Gloria serves said her community is a large health center in Mali and a home to 30 orphans between one and two years old.

Gloria and other nuns teach literacy classes to over 700 Muslim women.

At the time of her abduction, the church was working on a barn project to store food and plan against food shortages. A lot of women, especially mothers in the region die from malnutrition.