MBAU, Congo, OCT. 23, 2012 (  The bishop of a local diocese in the Congo has called on kidnappers to release three priests who were abducted on Friday. Jean-Pierre Ndulani, Anselme Wasikundi and Edmond Bamutute, three Assumptionist Fathers of Congolese nationality, served in the parish of Notre-Dame des Pauvres in Mbau, a small parish located in the north-eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo prior to their kidnapping.

The news was reported on Saturday by the Secretary of the Commission for social communications of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO).

Yesterday, in an interview with Agenzia Fides, his Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Beni, assured that, “different lines of investigation are being followed for the three Assumptionist fathers,” and added, “we must understand, which is the right one."

The Kivu region has been the scene of repeated clashes between rebel groups and government forces since 2004. It is believed that many of those responsible for the Rwandan genocide, both Hutu and Tutsi, have taken refuge there while avoiding prosecution and maintaining their rebel organizations.  Although since 2009, conflicts with both Hutu and Tutsi factions effectively ended either by absorption of the groups into government as political parties or through armed conflict, these factions have periodically broken their peaceful resolutions and returned to banditry in this area.  Although Bishop Sikuli Paluku did not explicitly make these connections nor indicated what he believed to be the motivations behind the abduction, he did confirm that "the parish where the religious were kidnapped is located in an area where there are several armed groups who commit acts of banditry of this kind.”

"We have appealed to the general mobilization not only of the police and other security forces, but also to the population of the area to provide us with information on the kidnappers’ movements," he said. Bishop Sikuli Paluku also stated that he is hoping to "get some more precise information during the course of day."

"We have asked the faithful to pray so that God touches the hearts of the kidnappers and release our fathers."