Aid to the Church in Need, November 22, 2022 (excerpts)
Fears are growing that a priest who disappeared in Mali has been abducted by Islamist militants. German missionary priest Father Hans-Joachim Lohre went missing on Sunday (20th November) after celebrating Mass at a convent in Bamako, the country’s capital.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was told by the Missionaries of Africa – known as the White Fathers – that everything points to him having been kidnapped.
Father Lohre’s car was found abandoned and a cross which he always carried with him was lying on the ground.
The priest, who worked in Mali for more than 30 years, before his disappearance, told ACN that missionaries faced potential danger from Mali’s growing Islamist militant groups. He said: “We are an easy target, but we have a mission”, adding “we have been told that the jihadists are watching us. The jihadists come in groups, on motorcycles, and the local communities have to make deals with them. They are forbidden from ringing church bells and drinking alcohol, and women are forced to wear the veil.”
But he stressed that concerns about his personal safety did not keep him from continuing his ministry in Mali.
Extremist groups have overrun swathes of central Mali, imposing Shari‘a in the areas under their control.
“Therefore, it is crucial that we foster good relations with the Muslims around us. We provide Christians with deep knowledge about Islam, so that when they return to their communities, they can help to build bridges and make contact with the surrounding mosques.”