14 October 2009

Tuesday night update on kidnapped Father Michael Sinnott

Here is an edited version of an email sent at 11:16pm last night, Tuesday, from Pagadian City by Fr Patrick O'Donoghue, the Columban superior in the Philippines. Father O'Donoghue mentions that Father Sinnott doesn't have his breviary with him. When my late classmate Fr Desmond Hartford was kidnapped for 12 days in 1997 when he was Apostolic Administrator of the Prelature of Marawi he asked his captors to get his breviary, as he didn't have it with him, and they did.

This morning as I went into the chapel to say Mass, I was reminded how Father Mick would faithfully be there every morning long before Mass. His breviary was there waiting for him to say Night Prayer Sunday II. My own Office of Readings and Morning Prayer took on an added significance as he does not have his breviary with him - it was as if I was saying it with and for him also. He was of course very 'present' to me during Mass. All I could think was how much an added loss all this is to him now as he is truly ‘bereft’ of so many things. I could only beg the good Lord (and repeat this several times during the day) that he be present to him as only God knows best and comfort and strengthen him in what can only be next to impossible circumstances.

I went to Hangop Kabataan (the school for children with disabilities that Father Sinnott set up in 1998) after 9am and met with the some of the Board Members. Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian was also there. We discussed some practical matters with regard to keeping the school operational while Father Mick is in captivity. I was able to assure them that the (Missionary) Society (of St Columban) will give all necessary help. I also spoke with the staff and visited each of the classrooms, spending time with the teachers, their assistants and the children. Many children did not come today as the parents are too upset by what has happened. As you can imagine the whole school is traumatised by what has happened to Father Mick. As I remarked, Hangop has been his ‘family’for many years and he is very much their ‘Tatay’ (‘Dad’) if not their ‘Lolo’ (grandfather) and deeply loved. Some of the pupils were very distraught when they were told that Father Mick had been kidnapped - one was still crying when I went into the classroom. I, too, found my own emotions (which I had tried to keep safely in a box these days!) coming to the fore - not a bad thing. The staff told me of their plan (which they did later) which was to broadcast over the radio stations here a request from them and the pupils to return their ‘Tatay’ unharmed as the children needed him so badly.

There were a stream of journalists coming during the later morning and early afternoon. I found them all to be respectful and helpful and with two we agreed very concretely on what would be written! There were others who phoned - some were international calls. Again with them I kept to the concrete facts and main concern. We have had no concrete information as to where Father Mick has been taken, who had taken him or what their actual demands are. Our concern is his health - that the longer this goes on (and especially if he is not in a reasonable dwelling) and the longer he is without his medication, the more that concern grows.

Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio One) also contacted me and I again got my three minutes! (Audio and video links at bottom of that page). I used that opportunity to read the statement from the Association for Islamic Development Inc. which condemned the kidnapping. Attached please find a copy of same and another statement from Sultan Maguid. (See below).

With the help of (Columban) Fr Sean Martin, I was able to get a list of Father Mick's medication from his doctor and the amounts he is to take each day. These more or less match what he had in his room. We are seeing if we can have this information broadcast over the radio so that the kidnappers would know what to get him.

In talking more at length with the staff here, I now realise that the minivan that was used to abduct Father Mick was backed into the property (with the front just inside the gateposts) after the men pushed the gate wide open and rushed him. He was bundled into the vehicle within the compound and then they drove out. The two staff were restrained by the side and some others other side saw it happen but it all happened so fast that they were gone before the full realization of what had happened dawned. A number of people saw them bringing Father Mick to the boat - and recognised him. One woman called the emergency number on her cell phone but by the time she did so (no load) and the police arrived (they seemed to have come to our house first as the staff called them also) - the boat was gone. It took precious time to organise the marine patrol speed boats.

The emails and communications from Columbans and others continue to pour in - many thanks again for the Masses offered, prayers and support. Here in Pagadian there are many prayer groups set up to pray for Father Mick's safe return. May God grant what we ask.

Mr Mícheál Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs

Finally, I had a phone call this evening from the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mícheál Martin, in which he asked me to convey to all Columbans his concern at what has happened. It was a helpful and appreciated conversation.


Fr Pat O'Donoghue


The Muslim community in Pagadian City laments the kidnapping of Irish priest Fr. Michael Sinnott by six unidentified armed men on the night of October 11, 2009 inside the Columban House in Pagadian City. This act is against the morality of Islam. In solidarity, we join our Christian brethrens in strongly condemning this act. We also pray for his safety and immediate release. Even as we say this we also appeal for calmness and sobriety and ask that we work together in solidarity for the early and unconditional release of Fr. Sinnott.

As a peace advocate, Fr. Sinnott, a Columban missionary priest is the founder of Hangop Kabataan Foundation who caters to the needs of disadvantaged children. He is also a respected member of the Interfaith Forum for Solidarity and Peace in Pagadian City, an organization of religious and concern Christians, Muslims and Subanens, who had contributed a lot in bridging understanding and peace building.

Consortium of Bangsamooro Civil Society- Sibugay RegionExecutive Director, Ummah Fi Salam, Pagadian City
E-mail: ummah_phil@yahoo.com


In solidarity with the good people of Pagadian and Zamboanga del Sur both Muslim and Christians. We, in behalf of the Muslim community of the locality strongly condemn the forceful abduction of the Columban Irish priest, Fr. Michael Sinnott on October 11, 2009 at around 7.30pm from the Columban House in Barangay Gatas in the city of Pagadian.

Being a people of faith, we appeal for the unconditional, safe and soonest release of father Michael Sinnott. We pray for the unity and support among both Christians and Muslims especially in this time of great concern.


Sheikh Esmael Calalagan


Association for Islamic Development (AID) Inc.

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