Saturday, January 04, 2014

Boko Haram releases Fr. Vandenbeusch in time for New Year

Hollande meets Fr. Vandenbeusch off the planeFrench Catholics breathed a sigh of relief this New Year’s Eve after receiving the news of French missionary Fr. Georges Vandenbeusch’s release. 

The priest was kidnapped in northern Cameroon six weeks ago by members of radical Islamist movement, Boko Haram. 

French President, François Hollande announced the priest’s release in an official statement issued on 31 December. 

On New Year’s Eve morning, the President went to meet the 42 year old priest in person at the Villacoublay airbase, accompanied by the Bishop of Nanterre, Gerard Dacourt and relatives.

The nightmare started on 13 November, when a group of Boko Haram fighters burst into Fr. Vandenbeusch’s parish near Koza - not far from the Nigerian border - and kidnapped him. 

After ministering as a priest in France, the missionary set off for northern Cameroon in 2011. Many Nigerian refugees also come here to escape Islamist-controlled areas. 

Mr. Hollande thanked Cameroon’s President Paul Biya for what he had done personally to ensure the priest’s release. Boko Haram decided to release the priest “on compassionate grounds” and denied accepting the ransom. 

Members of the movement said Vandenbeusch was released after he had taken care of some wounded fighters. But the missionary denied this in an interview aired yesterday on French television channel France 2.

“These people have compassion for no-one,” the priest stated, adding that he had never carried out any medical treatment. "Had they brought me someone who is bleeding, I would have done what I could, but they didn't.” 

Speaking about his detainment, he said he had been kept under a tree and that he had experienced "terrible boredom; he said he felt lucky he had been held captive for a relatively short time but was saddened by the fact he was not able to return to his parish in Cameroon. Boko Haram is not specifically targeting Christians or French citizens but Westerners in general,” the priest added.

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement saying: "We are overjoyed by the news of Fr. Georges Vandenbeusch’s release, which gives us courage and hope. On this World Day of Peace we hope that all forms of violence, hatred and conflict in the tormented regions of Africa be stamped out, as well as elsewhere in the world. Let us remember and pray for those people who are still being held unjustly in various parts of the world, as a consequence of conflicts.”

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