A ransom demand for the release of three Assumptionist priests kidnapped last week, has been received by Mgr Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku, Bishop of Butembo -Benii in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bishop Paluku said: "We received a phone call from a person claiming to belong to the group that kidnapped the three religious." He said he was cautious about the authenticity of the call. "We are still waiting to find a reliable channel for dialogue with the kidnappers" he said.
The Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) issued a statement condemning the kidnapping. "I hope that the kidnappers are aware of the size of their act," said Mgr Sikuli Paluku. The message, signed by His Exc Mgr Nicolas Djomo, Bishop of Tsumbe and President of CENCO, in addition to strongly condemning the kidnapping of the three religious priests (who had been recently appointed to the parish of Mbau), "appeals to the kidnappers who committed this unacceptable act to safeguard the physical and moral integrity of the three priests and free them without conditions to enable them to continue their pastoral service and assistance to the people of Mbau."
Regarding reports claiming that three religious were kidnapped by some guerrillas of Ugandan origin operating in the area, Mgr. Sikuli Paluku said: "In the region there are some groups that were born in Uganda but have been in Congo for years, and have become Congolese also because their members have married Congolese women. These groups live out of banditry or put themselves at the service of others. I do not think, however, that it is them. There are indeed other indigenous groups and I believe we need to look in that direction," concluded the Bishop.