MANILA — Even with the release of one of the three Red Cross workers, the Roman Catholic Church continues to exhort the whole nation to pray for the two other workers’ immediate release.
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI raised his voice and made an appeal that “humanitarian sense and reason will prevail over violence and threat.”
The Apostolic Nunciature in Manila communicated the Pope’s appeal to the local media through the CBCP Media Office morning of March 31.
The pontiff also made an impassioned appeal for the release of the victims, and urged the authorities to work toward a peaceful solution to the crisis.
It added that the Pope “asks, in the name of God, for their liberation, and requests that the authorities favor every peaceful solution of this dramatic event.”
The Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines, Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Italian Eugenio Vagni on Jan.15 in Jolo island. Lacaba was recently released from captivity leaving Notter and Vagni still in the hands of the bandits.
The papal call for their release came as the situation escalated following the extremists’ threat to behead the hostages unless the military leave 15 villages in Jolo, which lies 950 kilometers south of Manila.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had also been praying that the bandits release the victims out of “compassion”.
In a pastoral exhortation released April 1, CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo urged authorities to not to pay ransom and avoid violence in ensuring the safe release of the captives.
“We appeal to both the groups of kidnappers and the government officials to use every peaceful means to address through peaceful means whatever is at the root of this ongoing problem of kidnapping in order that there may be peace in Jolo, in Mindanao and the whole country,” he said.
“We appeal to all groups of kidnappers in the name of our common humanity and in the name of the One Merciful and Just God whom we worship to grant freedom to their captives,” he added.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales affirmed that in dealing with the unreasonable, there must be the exercise of firmness.
“But precisely because there is non-use of reason, there needs to be the exercise of reason, there needs to the exercise of a mutually instructive dialogue, sharing in the mutual shift in the focus of demands and the final disarming of the threats and fears,” he said.
“The task is very difficult, but rather than have bloody carcasses in the end which will surely escalate in the ‘get-even” aftermath, let there be proper mutual shifts of dialogue and demands.”
“The human exchanges will be more important than the insistence of mutual threat. When the particular crisis is over, then the reason can be listened to,” Rosales added.
Unless authorities can show they are implementing the law, kidnappings will in continue in Mindanao, Isabela de Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said.
He said merely increasing visibility and enhancing intelligence on the ground can go a long way in getting the job done.
“We were asking at the very start for the police and military authorities to increase their visibility and enhance their intelligence on the ground to deter criminal activities in the province," Jumoad said.
The Abu Sayyaf is one of several rebel groups involved in the resurgence of violence in the Philippines.
The al-Qaeda-linked militants operate in Mindanao, where other extremists have been warring for over 30 years for an Islamic state.
Hostage-taking is the famous activities of the bandits with a spate of bombings, assassinations and kidnapping of priests and businessmen.
The government and even Catholic Church leaders said the Abu Sayyaf has been trying to evict Christians from its Basilan island base.
Abu Sayyaf is the most militant group and wants an independent Islamic state in Mindanao—a region where many people live in dire poverty. (CBCPNews)