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Philippines missionaries remain in kidnap territory but urge prayers

The Claretian missionaries will not pull out of Basilan in the southern Philippines, despite the aggressive terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in the province, but they ask for prayers to support this courageous decision.

Br Cesar Solas, a seminarian at the Claretian Theology House Community, said that none of the missionaries are evacuating their posts in Basilan. Fr Martin Jumoad, Diocesan Administrator of the Prelature of Isabela in Basilan, sent a message asking for prayers.

Basilan, an island south of Manila, is one of the two main strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. Isolated by other more moderate Muslim groups, Abu Sayyaf uses kidnapping and brutal killings of local and foreign people to fund its campaign for full Islamisation in the southern area of Asia's most Catholic country.

In May this year world attention was drawn to the Abu Sayyaf group when it kidnapped a group of 21 tourists. Last week, the same terrorists kidnapped a group of Christian villagers: the headless bodies of ten of the innocent victims were later found by the police.

The Philippine bishops, shocked by the news of the recent beheadings and kidnapping in Basilan, issued a statement on Friday signed by Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, president of the bishops' conference. In the statement they reiterate their condemnation "in the strongest possible terms of this latest act of terrorism by the Abu Sayyaf Group that has once again involved innocent civilians, including school children, which resulted in destruction of property and sown fear among the people in Lamitan town."