A Colombian missionary sister who was kidnapped in Mali over three years ago is reportedly still alive, according to an eyewitness.
Sr Gloria Cecilia Narvaez was taken from Karangasso village in the south of the country by jihadist militants on February 7, 2017.
She previously appeared in hostage video footage, including a 2018 video in which she pleaded to Pope Francis to secure her release, but in the last two years there had been no word on her condition or whereabouts.
After jihadists in Mali last week released Sophie Pétronin, who had previously been filmed alongside Sr Gloria Cecilia Narvaez in a proof of life video, the 75-year-old French aid worker said that Sr Gloria was still “alive but needs care”.
Pétronin, who now goes by the name of Mariam after converting to Islam during her four-year captivity, begged the French President to help free the ailing hostage.
“Her spirit is giving way,” Pétronin told President Emmanuel Macron as he greeted her at Villacoublay military airport near Paris. “We must do everything to get her out of there”.
Colombian President Ivan Duque has since ordered his diplomats in Europe to try to advance the cause of Sr Gloria Cecilia Narvaez amongst EU-member states.
Cardinal Jean Zerbo, Archbishop of Bamako, also called for the release of Sr Gloria, as well as all other hostages that remain in Mali: “Every time we pray, we ask the Lord for the release of Sr Gloria and all the other hostages. This represents a grave humiliation for Mali. They came to do good and were kidnapped by bandits, as if they were slaves. It is a sin for our country”.
The situation for the hostages still in Mali remains grave, with the Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockli, who was kidnapped from Timbuktu in northern Mali, killed by her Islamist captors just last month.
Last week’s release of Pétronin, alongside the prominent Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, and two Italians, Fr Pierluigi Maccalli and Nicola Chiacchio, may signal a shift, but it was mediated by the highly controversial transitional government in Mali, which was set up by the military following a coup d’état in August.
The new Malian government only secured the release of the four hostages after making the contentious decision to free nearly two hundred jihadist prisoners just days prior, in what has been described as a “prisoner swap” deal.
The country has been gripped by violence since the August military coup, with escalated jihadist attacks in the north of the country combined with endemic inter-communal violence in central Mali, where 25 people have been killed in October attacks, including 13 soldiers.
FEATURED IMAGE: Screengrab of Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez from proof of life footage released in 2018 by Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (“Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims”), the name of Al-Qaeda’s branch in the Sahel.