DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     November 3, 1998     vol. 9, no. 215

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (CWNews.com) - An Italian priest held captive by Muslim rebels for two months in the southern Philippines pleaded with his superiors to speed up their work for his release in a letter dated last Friday.

          Father Luciano Benedetti said in the letter, released by Catholic officials on Monday, that his life in captivity in difficult. "Life is very difficult here. If you can do anything ... please speed up my release," wrote the 54-year-old missionary from Treviso, Italy. The kidnappers have demanded 15 million pesos (US$371,400) in exchange for the priest's release.

          Earlier reports had led police to believe that Father Benedetti was dead. Zamboanga police said last weekend they had sent teams to dig up the body of a supposed foreigner which villagers said had been buried near where he was believed to be held. In his letter, Benedetti said his kidnappers were treating him well but moving him every night, said Father Giulio Mariani, regional superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

          Meanwhile, persecution continued in the region of New Delhi where the western Gujrath state which has seen nearly three dozen attacks on Christians since March recorded another Hindu fundamentalist attack on Christians with help of police.

          Nearly 150 delegates attending a convention by the Alpha Missionary Movement (AMM) were forced out of their lodgings early Friday morning by members of the Hindu fundamentalist group Bajrang Dal which used "sticks, belts, chains, and fists to mercilessly beat up the delegates as they were forced into the streets," AMM leaders complained to the governor of Gujrath.

          More than two dozen police responded to the attack, but they remained "mute spectators to the whole scene" as has happened in many of the recent attacks on Christians in Gujrath ever since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in March in the state, said the AMM statement. Forty people were injured in the initial attack including one person who was pushed from a second floor window. Others who came to inquire about the attack were also abused and taken into custody by police and were beaten and detained overnight. No arrests were made among the Hindu group.

          Meanwhile, another group claiming to be from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) arrived at the convention in the early morning along with 15 policemen. After pulling down the stage decorations, the group went inside the campus where other delegates were staying. The group stole Bibles and destroyed them, and beat up the delegates, the AMM statement said.

          "These painful events are yet another glaring example of the continued aggression and persecution of minorities in this state that have graphically escalated during recent times. We are victims of the hate campaign and a vicious agenda propagated by Hindu fundamentalist groups that have no regard whatsoever for the law or the government or the rights of minorities or religious groups," they said. The group urged the governor "to uphold the rights and religious affiliation of every Indian citizen."

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Nov 3, 1998       volume 9, no. 215


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