Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mormon missionaries released by Nigerian kidnappers
The Salt Lake Tribune

Posted: 6:50 PM- SALT LAKE CITY - Four Mormon missionaries abducted
from their apartment Saturday morning in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, were
released unharmed at 10:40 p.m. (2:40 p.m. MST) Wednesday to the home
of LDS Church Bishop Sancho N. Chukwu, who helped negotiate their
release, church officials said.
The motive behind the hostage takings was not fully known, said
Quentin L. Cook, of the First Quorum of Seventy and executive director
of the LDS Church's missionary department. However, the captors likely
believed they had abducted oil company workers, for whom they would
receive ransom payments, then quickly realized they had made a
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sticking to
policy, paid no ransom for the missionaries' release, said LDS Apostle
M. Russell Ballard, chairman of the missionary executive committee.
However, it did give the captors $810 to pay for the four men's food,
lodging and care during their captivity.
Church officials said they paid the money early on in negotiations
with the captors to ensure the men, all Nigerians age 20 to 25, were
properly cared for. They credited church leaders in Nigeria and
involvement of other community members, including tribal chiefs, in
helping to resolve the matter. And they expressed their gratitude for
worldwide prayers.
Officials could not comment on the captors, the details of the
abduction nor the conditions in which the missionaries were kept. But
they did say the missionaries were in good health and doing fine.
"Their spirits are high and they are expected to return shortly to
the work they love," Bruce Olsen, spokesman for the LDS Church, said
while reading from a prepared statement.
Cook fought back tears as he spoke about the "wonderful young
people" who serve the church and the sacrifices they make.
Speculating on what the missionaries might have been doing during
their time with the captors, Ballard said, "I think they were teaching
the lessons.. . . Hearts were softened."
The Port Harcourt Mission will continue operations, even amid
escalating violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The LDS Church
will take precautions, as necessary, just as they did last month when
they moved five American missionary couples to safer ground in the
west African country. This decision was made in response to a U.S.
State Department travel warning and because it was the Americans who
were most likely to be mistaken for oil company workers, who've been
the targets of more than 70 hostage takings since the start of the
Of the 352 young missionaries serving in Nigeria, none are
American and most are African, officials said.
Moving missionaries around, in response to security concerns, is
nothing new for the church. They've made changes in missionary plans
due to conflicts in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, to name a few. So
officials don't expect tensions in Nigeria to hamper the church's
Mormon missionaries first arrived in Nigeria in 1978. Today, there
are more than 74,000 Latter-day Saints living in the country.

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