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Hounded out of their homes by Islamist violence, Iraqi Christians face what many fear may be their final festive season in the land of their fathers as many prepare for exile
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A French priest kidnapped by Nigerian Islamists from his parish in northern Cameroon on 13 November, was freed on New Year’s Eve and arrived in Paris today.
President François Hollande welcomed Fr Georges Vandenbeusch, 42, at the Paris military airport on his arrival today, a day after announcing the release of the priest who moved to Cameroon from a suburb of Paris two years ago.
Mr Hollande thanked the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, and the Nigerian authorities for their help in freeing the priest. It is thought he was held in Nigeria.
Fr Vandenbeusch, 42, had been warned about Boko Haram, which uses Cameroon’s far north as a rear base for bloody attacks on Christians and moderate Muslims in neighbouring Nigeria.
But in a blog a few months ago he said he would stay because he doubted the group would cause any harm in Cameroon.
“I am in good health and so grateful to those who worked for my release,” he told reporters on arrival at the airport in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé, yesterday. “[It was] terribly boring. I spent seven weeks with nothing to do, pacing in circles in my tent under a tree without a book to read or a person to talk to.”
Parishioners at his former church in Seaux, south of Paris, had prayed weekly for his safety.
The Rector of Paris’ Grand Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, condemned the kidnapping and several Jewish leaders attended prayer services for Fr Vandenbeusch in his diocese of Nanterre in western Paris.
Cameroon’s chief imam had also urged Muslims there to pray for his release.
France said it had not paid any ransom, Reuters reported.