Source: World Watch Monitor, October 20, 2016
The kidnap of a pioneering American missionary in Niger is a “terrible tragedy” for the communities he served for 24 years, according to the local mayor. It has also raised security concerns among the country’s missionary community.
Jeff Woodke, 55, who worked for [a branch of] the US-based Youth With a Mission (YWAM), was abducted by unknown assailants late on Friday evening (October 14) from the town of Abalak in northern Niger.
Bilou Mohamed, the mayor of Abalak, told World Watch Monitor the community had “suffered a terrible tragedy” and locals “wept with sorrow, lamenting the loss of a friend” the day after his abduction. He added: “This man has lived among us for years, even in when it has been difficult to accompany vulnerable populations… Everyone knows his goodness.”
Woodke is known in Abalak for his devotion to Niger and its nomadic populations. He runs several development projects among the Tuareg, focusing on farming, health, literacy, primary school education and improving access to drinking water, among other things.
He has spoken internationally on the impact of climate change on nomadic peoples and is a pioneer of “sustainable nomadism”—enabling nomads to maintain their traditional lifestyles in the face of increasingly frequent drought. He is the only American in his team.
Rev. Kagninde added: “Jeff has given everything for the Tuaregs, which raises the question: how did people of malign intent kidnap a man well-known in the community without arousing the suspicion among the local population, especially given that his house is next to that of the mayor of Abalak? The kidnappers must have been outsiders.”