Pope reiterates call for Red Cross workers’ release

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday reiterated his call for the release of three kidnapped Red Cross workers in the Philippines held captive by Abu Sayyaf militants in Mindanao.

“The Holy Father, in the name of God, asks their liberation and begs the authorities to favor ever peaceful solution of this dramatic episode,” the statement, which was sent to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, read.

“The Holy Father, making his own the concern of the families and of those who have at the heart the safety of the 3 humanitarian workers of the Red Cross kidnapped on the island of Jolo, wishes to raise his voice and to make an appeal that humanitarian feeling and reason might have the upper hand over violence and intimidation,” it added.

The Vatican press office said the Pontiff is concerned for the safety of the three, who were seized January 15 by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has ties to al-Qaeda.

Abu Sayyaf militants had given the government until 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) Tuesday to withdraw all its troops from five towns on the southern island of Jolo or they would behead one hostage.

But government has said the demand was impossible, stressing it has already completed a tactical retreat as earlier demanded from a sprawling jungle area where the Abu Sayyaf have held Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Eugenio Vagni of Italy since January 15.

Agreeing to the move would mean that government forces would be restricted to a small area near Jolo’s capital, leaving them and the island’s half a million population highly vulnerable to further attacks, the government said.

International Committee of the Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger again called on the Abu Sayyaf to free the three ICRC workers, saying they were on Jolo island for a humanitarian mission.

“Our message to Abu Sayyaf is: please spare and release Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas,” Kellenberger said an appeal issued in Manila and Geneva overnight.

“All they were doing was helping people in need in your area. There is no ideology or religious law that could justify killing them,” he added.


Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 3:34 pm  Comments Off on Pope reiterates call for Red Cross workers’ release  
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