10/21/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Ulema order captors to release Fr Sinnott

by Santosh Digal
Muslim leaders say the abduction of the Irish priest is “contrary to the principles of Islam”; urge media to avoid exploiting the Islamic religion.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The National Ulema Conference of the Philippines (NUCP) appealed to the captors of Fr Michael Sinnott, who was abducted on 10 October, asking them to release him, saying that the deed was “contrary to the principles of Islam, Christianity and other religions.” The Muslim religious leaders also slam how media exploit Islam to “divide Muslims from their Christian brothers.”

The Filipino military has blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the kidnapping. However, the MILF has rejected the accusations, saying that yesterday it began to search for the clergyman in the Sultan Naga Dimaporo area (Lanao del Norte).

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

“Everyone in Mindanao is against kidnappings. The tragedy is that they are often blamed on religion, but no one here kills or abducts in the name of God,” said Fr Eliseo Mercado, an Oblate missionary of Mary Immaculate and Islam expert. Instead, he contends that abductions are “good business now because of the crisis.”

Filipino hostages can fetch between US$ 21,000 and 300,000. Foreigners go as high as US$ 4.5 million. Criminal gangs in Mindanao especially target foreign priests because of what they do.

In the last few years, 13 foreign missionaries have been kidnapped or killed.

Fr Sinnott is the third Irish priest to be abducted. In 1997, Fr Des Hartford was taken by a group of Muslim rebels and released after 12 days of captivity. A few years later, in 2001, another missionary, Fr Rufus Hally from Waterford was killed during an attempted kidnapping.

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