11/04/2004, 00.00
PHILIPPINES - AFGHANISTAN - IRAQ
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Filipino Church prays for hostages in Afghanistan and Iraq

by Sonny Evangelista

Manila (AsiaNews) – The bishops of the Philippines are urging the faithful to pray for the liberation of hostages in Afghanistan. Mgr Fernando Capalla, President of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and Archbishop of Davao, called on the Christian community to "pray for the liberation" of their fellow Filipino Angelito Nayan and his two colleagues—Annetta Flanigan (Ulster) and Shqipe Habibi (Kosovo)—with whom he was abducted on October 28. All three are employed by the Afghan Electoral Commission and the United Nations, which organised the October 9 elections.

Archbishop Capalla urged everyone to pray that the hostages' families not lose faith and hope and that the "spirit of love prevail in the hearts and minds of their abductors."

"We continue to believe that in these troubled times we are living in, prayer sustains us even when all other human efforts seem to fail; prayer makes us remember that we are all children of the same God," he said. Similarly, peace in the Middle East is also in the prayers of many a Filipino Catholic since many of them still hope for "their turn to work" in the region.

In the meantime, Filipino authorities are working not only for their hostage crisis in Afghanistan but also for that in Iraq. On November 1, a dozen armed men abducted Roberto Tarongoy, a Filipino national working in Baghdad for a Saudi catering company under contract with the US military. With him, an American and a Nepalese were also taken. Sources in Manila said that a joint Bishops-Ulemas Conference coordinated by Archbishop Capalla would negotiate with Muslim religious leaders in Iraq to win the Filipino's release.

The Philippines withdrew its troops from Iraq after the July kidnapping of another Filipino national, Angelo de la Cruz, and are not militarily present in Afghanistan.

The Filipino government now prohibits Filipino citizens from going to Iraq for work. Yet, there are currently over 4,000 Filipinos working in US military bases in Iraq more than half of whom arrived recently in spite of their government's July travel ban.

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