Philippines: Kidnapped priest 'wore his captors down with kindness'

Columban Father Michael Sinnott

Columban Father Michael Sinnott

The kidnappers of Columban Father Michael Sinnott were quite glad to see the back of him after two weeks - according to a report in the Irish Daily Mail.
For ten days, Fr Mick said,  the break-away faction of the Moro Islamic National Front  tried to convince him of their cause.  In the end, they gave up their political speeches threw their hands in the air and said: “If you go now we will be free too. We want you to go!”

“They had enough." he said. "They all wanted to go home too. I guess they had their own families to look after.

“We had started off at loggerheads.  They insisted they were freedom fighters and they were original indigenous people, known as Lumad, from Mindanao. They wanted their land back and a state with a constitution which would be the Koran.

“Well, I was having nothing of that blarney. I told them that most of Mindanao was now Christian. And in any case the original indigenous people were neither Christian nor Muslim. Actually Christianity came 200 years to the Philippines after Islam  but the majority are now Catholics.

“Really what they really wanted was $2million in ransom.  But it did not take them long to give up on that idea.

“For the first week ago there was little love lost.  They prayed their way and I prayed mine, staring up to the heavens flat on my back in a hammock as three times a day they faced Mecca.  But by the second week we were all praying for each other.

“Forget about the politics, or their crime.  These were normal people with families with the same aspirations as anyone. We got to know each other quite well.  They were very kind. Beside they may have had trouble on their hands.  I was not troublesome.  But I took a lot of looking after and they were worried for my health.

“In the end I think they accepted that kidnap was forbidden by the Koran, and they were told that,  I believe,  by leaders of the real MILF.  But they argued that they had no other way to get funding."

Father Mick was freed last Thursday after a month in captivity. He was snatched by four  armed men on 11 October from the Columban Mission in Pagadian, southern Mindanao.

During his ordeal Fr Mick was hidden on boats, forced to trek though the jungle and live in very primitive conditions.

At the beginning, he said his captors had been quite rough but they soon began to look after him very well.

“I certainly got the feeling they thought they had got the wrong guy.  I’m 79 years old and need taking care of and that’s just what they did. Every little thing from helping me fasten my shoes to getting in and out of the hammock, and even moving in my hammock into a comfortable position, which is not so easy for an old man.

“They sent out men to get the provisions and brought for me things like bread and sandwich spread, which together with some of their rice was my daily intake. They also brought mosquito spray which made the swamp tolerable.  Who has ever heard of terrorists supplying mosquito spray and sandwich spread?

“When I told them I did not have my heart medicine, the medicine arrived at the end of ten days, but I had no trouble in the meantime."

“The only exercise I got was to jump up and down beside my hammock.  The boredom was the worst thing;  ten days stuck in a hammock or standing or sitting on a very small dry piece of land."

He said: “At no time apart from at the very beginning when I was roughly treated did I think any harm would come to me.  I believe in the power of prayer.  I could feel the power of the prayers from people in the Philippines and from back home at the Church of the Assumption in Clonard."

When he is  fully recovered, Fr Mick says he want to continue his work in the Philippines.

Source: Irish Daily Mail/Columbans

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