Friday, June 22, 2007

Muslims, Christians Hold Rally, Pray For Safety Of Kidnapped Italian Catholic Missioner In Mindanao

Hundreds of Christians and Muslims hold a solidarity rally Friday, June 22, 2007 in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to pray for the early release of an Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi kidnapped by rebels in the neighboring province of Zamboanga Sibugay on June 10. The rebels are demanding $1 million dollars for the freedom of the Milan-born missioner. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Jun) – Hundreds of Muslims and Christians in the southern Filipino port city of Zamboanga held a solidarity rally Friday to pray for the quick release of a kidnapped Italian Catholic prelate.

Rebels are holding Giancarlo Bossi, 57, since June 10 after they seized the missioner in the coastal village of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province. The rebels demanded one million dollars for the safe release of the Milan-born priest.

The rally, organized by the Peace Advocate Zamboanga, drew students and religious people from around Zamboanga City. They held a prayer rally; some of them carried placards and banners appealing for Bossi’s release, at a public square called Plaza Pershing in downtown Zamboanga.

Some held bamboo torch and listened to gospel songs and statements read by lay leaders.

Filipino authorities have provided no information about the priest, a member of the Rome-based Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). Its superior, Rev. Gianni Sandalo, previously said they will not pay ransom.

Sandalo, who is based in Zamboanga City, has traveled to Zamboanga Sibugay a day after Bossi’s kidnapping to monitor the progress of the search.

The Italian Ambassador Rubens Fedele has flown to Zamboanga City and also traveled back and forth to Zamboanga Sibugay trying to get more information about Bossi.

Both Sandalo and Fedele said they have no reports about the whereabouts of the kidnapped priest or anything that will prove Bossi is still alive.

But a new PIME web log dedicated to Bossi showed a picture of a man’s legs, his feet stuck in mud in the middle of a mangrove marshland and a barrel of an M16 automatic rifle is also visible on the foreground. PIME did not say whether the man on the photo is Bossi or not, but the priest name is written on it.

The photo raised suspicion that PIME or the Italian government has been secretly negotiating with the kidnappers, who are believed rogue members of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, is helping authorities in tracking down Bossi. (With a report from Chris Navarra)

No comments: