We all breathed a sigh of relief and so did every missionary and person of good will who was in solidarity and prayer for Father Michael Sinnott who spent 32 days in captivity. According to Father Mick, the abduction was rough and his hands were tied when he was pushed into the back of a van at the Columban Missionaries’ House in the Philippines on October 11. He was then whisked into a speed boat blindfolded en route to his destination where he spent the first ten days in a mosquito infested swamp but was then moved to a densely forested area where he could walk a short distance to exercise daily. He talked with his captors in Visayan and shared stories with them.
He was kidnapped by the Lumad Indigenous people, who told him that they were not going to kill him and were after money so this was a great relief to him. He then set his mind and heart on prayer for the strength to survive the jungle and for his freedom to return to his mission where he runs a special school for disabled children.
His captors told him they were holding him for ransom but when apparently none was paid and he was to be freed he asked why? “They said: it was important to get the message out to the international media. They want to mention that they are the original “Lumad of Mindanao” who lost their homeland and everything else when the merchants came”. They themselves (the Lumad) have no means of getting money for arms and bullets except through ransom”. The day that Father Michael was released, coincided with the opening of a national conference in Manila on the plight of the Lumad, an oppressed and exploited people.
Father Mick who will be an octogenarian soon, had a quadruple heart bypass a few years ago and naturally there was great concern for his health. He said he was well treated and that his captors were most kind and did all they could to make life as easy as possible for him under the circumstances, as well as give him his medication.
It was an opportunity to try to affirm what the missionary vocation is and why a ransom cannot be paid. Fr. Pat O’Donoghue, director of the Society of St. Columban in the Philippines said “We are missionaries and not commodities. I do not believe it right that ransom should be paid, as it adds to everyone else’s vulnerability. It’s far better that the money be used for the poor who have no proper food, no medical facilities and the many without homes. Mick would insist that the money be used to set up other schools, where the most forgotten, those with disabilities, can discover their dignity and their capabilities”.
Mick wanted to get back to continue his mission!
Here in Pakistan there is a wonderful custom that when something good happens to anybody the community celebrates by distributing food or sweets. Because Fr. Mick was known to us all here and had an aunt in our Congregation, Sr. Mary Theophane, I had asked the prisoners and staff of the Women’s Prison in Hyderabad to pray for his release. All are Muslims. They understood the message as here kidnappings and suicide bombings have become a reality that shakes the foundation of our security and our nation. They were very interested in the story and prayed for him and were shocked that an eighty-year old man would be taken for ransom.
When he was released, in line with the custom here, we got a deg of rice and chicken cooked to distribute to the prisoners and staff of the Jail where we work.
Great joy registered not alone at the release, but also at seeing the food!
Michael, you are an inspiration to us.
The Celebratory Meal has been served to the women at the jail by the kitchen staff so now the Sisters and their cook prepare to take a ride home!