Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – The kidnappers of Fr Giancarlo Bossi, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), are probably Muslims fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a group that has waged a bloody war for the independence of Mindanao since 1978, this according to Col Godofredo Paderanga, an officer of the civil-military operations branch of the Filipino Army's First Infantry Battalion. Fr Bossi was abducted at 9.35 am (local time) in the coastal village of Bulawan near Zamboanga (Mindanao).
According to Colonel Paderanga, the kidnap leader was identified as Aka Kedie, a MILF guerrilla leader. The officer added that so far there has been no demand for ransom and that the search for the missing priest was being carried out by the Army’s 102nd Brigade
A report from a local radio station said that Bossi had just finished officiating mass in his parish church in Payao when he was kidnapped by at least ten men.
Father Bossi is the third Italian priest kidnapped in the area in the last ten years. Fr Luciano Benedetti from PIME was abducted on September 8, 1998, near Sebuco, Zamboanga del Norte (Mindanao). He was released after 68 days of captivity on November 16.
Fr Giuseppe Pierantoni, a missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was kidnapped In October 2001 by a group calling itself Pentagon whilst celebrating mass in Dimantaling, Zamboanga del Sur. Freed six months later, he told the authorities that he had been passed from one group to another as military and police mounted a huge manhunt.
The Filipino army and separatist guerrillas have been waging a bloody war for many years but it is civilians and the religious who have often had to pay the price.
An Oblate Father with Mary Immaculate (OMI) yesterday called on Mindanao Muslims and Christians to pray together to end the war in the region. Speaking at a roundtable discussion that brought together army and MILF representatives, Fr Roberto C. Layson, coordinator of the OMI Inter-Religious Dialogue, said that it was urgent to fervently pray for an end to the conflict so that no more innocent civilians die in evacuation centers and no more combatants die in the battlefields.
“To me, in war the real enemy is not the rebel or a soldier. In war, the real enemy is war itself. If war can be avoided, it must be avoided at all cost in order to save human lives,” he said.
The lives of civilians and combatants are equally precious and sacred and as “a religious leader, I shall always support the ceasefire and the peace process,” Father Layson said.
Since 2003 the parties have been involved in a peace process that had so far led to fewer and fewer incidents reported.
“Let us praise all those who worked so hard in the past and also those in the present who are trying their best to make the ceasefire mechanisms work effectively,” Archbishop Romulo G. Valles of Zamboanga said.
Similarly, Catholic bishops and other Christian leaders in close collaboration with Muslim scholars and clergy have continued their efforts to get the parties to peace talks and to work together on education, development and prayer.