Abductions in the Democratic Republic of Congo are not uncommon. But the kidnapping of priests as a way of extorting money from the community is a growing concern for the African nation.
Captors of a Catholic Priest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have demanded $500,000 to release him, the country's local assembly of bishops said on Tuesday.
Father Celestin Nagango was abducted from his church in eastern Congo by armed men on Sunday, mere moments after he had delivered an Easter sermon at the parish.
Now, the kidnappers are requesting money from the church.
"His kidnappers have contacted the St. Paul of Karambi parish to demand $500,000 (€407,000) in ransom for his release," the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) said.
Church officials have not yet revealed whether or not a ransom will be paid.
A worrying trend
Kidnapping is not uncommon in the DRC, where armed groups often use abductions to extort money from civilians.
In July 2016, two Catholic priests, Reverand Charles Kapasa and Reverand Jean Pierre Akilimali, were seized from the Parish of Notre Dame in the Butembo-Beni Diocese, following the kidnapping of three fathers from the Assumptionist Order in October 2012.
None of the priests have been seen since. They came from the same area where Reverand Vincent Machozi Karunzu, a priest monitoring human rights abuses, was murdered in March 2016.
The Catholic Church is the largest religious group in the Congo, where about half of residents are members. In recent months, tensions between the church and the government have gained traction over President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down, and at least eight people were killed in anti-government demonstrations in December 2012.