Nigerian Reverend Polycarp Zongo freed after eight months of captivity by ISWAP terror group; reunited with family; wife gives birth same day

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, USA, June 30, 2021 / — On June 15, Mrs. Kaneng Zongo of Jos, Nigeria was scheduled to deliver her baby by Caesarean section. The Reverend John Pofi called her and suggested she postpone the surgery. The reason? Without admitting to her, the Reverend had purchased tickets for her just freed husband Pastor Polycarp Zongo to fly homeward from terror captivity in northeast Nigeria.Kenang, 39, had a scheduled surgical Caesarean because doctors surmised that given her depression over Polycarp’s eight months as a hostage to terrorists in West Africa, she wouldn’t stand a chance in natural birthing. Maternal mortality in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world.

But Kenang was not amongst those who received Polycarp at the Abuja airport. She couldn’t make the three-hour road trip from Jos. She was having the baby – naturally!

After his miraculous release, for several days, Polycarp recuperated to prepare himself for the biweekly flight home.

From ISWAP seclusion, he surprised his wife in the hospital – along with his daughter and son, plus the newborn he wasn’t expecting.

“We were all in tears,” said a person who was present at the reunion, “as Pastor Polycarp apologized to his two children Goshen, 9, that he borrowed her laptop for the trip last year but didn’t bring it back; he apologized to Kenang for almost making her a widow and the baby fatherless. He sobbed when Giovanni, 4, didn’t recognize him. He then grabbed the baby with ecstatic joy.”

It was a momentous Father’s Day reunion with two unexpected lives. No one expected the pastor to survive a terror group who specializes in videotaped beheadings of pastors. And the Reverend had no way of knowing in an 8-month captivity that he was going to be a father – or free again thanks to Ms. Ummu Kalthum Muhammed, Founder of Kalthum for Peace Foundation, an NGO, herself a nursing mother.

It is not known why Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terror group released the pastor without a ransom, but they reportedly have great respect for Ms. Mohammed the lady who has distinguished herself as a successful negotiator in recent years. However, the timing of his release and the birth of a baby boy was nothing short of divine as the family reunion occurred in Jos, central Nigeria on Father’s Day weekend.

According to Washington-based international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe: “I’m not sure if ISWAP released captives to celebrate their recent defeat of Boko Haram or because they realized these were genuinely poor people who couldn’t raise a ransom but they certainly didn’t do it for Father’s Day. Whatever the case, I commend the terrorists for the compassion they showed in freeing the Reverend. I hope that this dialogue can continue and that the newly merged BH/ISWAP will facilitate the release of the remaining 112 Chibok girls. We call for the release of Maida Yakubu Tikko who was the youngest Chibok schoolgirl taken captive and turns 23 years old on her birthday this month. I commend the Kalthum and John Pofi Foundation for this amazing feat and extend congratulations to Reverend and Mrs. Zongo and family for this double blessing and good news. It is amazing that civil society members were able to achieve what the government of Nigeria couldn’t do.”

REDEEM! is a US charitable organization serving the persecuted in Nigeria and relied on trusted partners for this report. Dr. William Devlin serves as its volunteer CEO.



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