Millions of Seventh-day Adventists this weekend will pray for two members that church officials say are wrongly imprisoned in the West African country of Togo.
Adventist pastor Antonio Monteiro and lay member Bruno Amah were detained in March after a Togolese man implicated them as conspirators in an alleged human blood trafficking network. Church officials say police in Togo found no evidence of their involvement.
Earlier this month, Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson called for a December 1 international day of prayer and fasting to support the two men.
Resources for the December 1 day of prayer and its awareness campaign have been translated into languages from Russian and Romanian to Spanish and Swahili. Ads, videos and banners have since appeared on local church websites and personal Facebook pages worldwide. The campaign’s Twitter hashtag is #pray4togo.
Additionally, an online petition to support the day of prayer has gained more than 7,000 signatures (see adventist.org).
Monteiro, a native of Cape Verde, has served since 2009 as the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director for the denomination’s Sahel Union Mission, headquartered in Lomé, Togo.
His accuser had earlier confessed to the murder of some 20 young girls, claiming he worked for a criminal ring that trafficked human blood. The man had met Monteiro when the pastor previously ministered to him.
In Lomé this morning, church officials held a press conference amplifying the day of prayer campaign.
The men are “deprived of their liberty and detained in the civil prison in Lomé without proof of guilt, without any evidence or indication of their close or distant relationship with this case,” said Guy F. Roger, president of the Sahel Union Mission. “The Adventist Church cannot remain silent in what seems to be a gross miscarriage of justice.”
Church officials at the world headquarters stressed that the December 1 day of prayer was to support the imprisoned members. Church leaders are continuing to meet with diplomats and government leaders expedite their release.
Roger said the Adventist Church in Togo would continue to cooperate with the Togolese government in promoting education, youth mentoring and humanitarian aid.
Public pressure to solve a string of murders last year likely thwarted the men’s release and exoneration, church officials said. Prior to Monteiro’s arrest, human rights groups had accused Togolese police of not doing enough to solve the crimes.
Wilson, the denomination’s president, met with both men in prison earlier this month during a visit to Togo.
“We are asking the entire world Seventh-day Adventist world church to join in prayer and fasting on December 1,” Wilson said.