Peace is a common aspiration of Filipino Christians and Muslims and of all persons of good will. This peace was severely fractured when Father Cirilo Nacorda, a diocesan priest working in the Prelature of Isabela, Basilan, was kidnapped with many others in Barangay Sampinit, Isabela, Basilan, on June 8, 1994. At least 15 of Father Nacorda’s companions were mercilessly shot to death by their Abbu Sayyaf captors. The others were kept hostage and were released only after money was paid to the kidnappers. Father Nacorda himself has remained in captivity and his life always hangs on a thin thread of uncertainty.
We, as a Conference, wish to express our solidarity with the Church in Basilan, Bishop Romulo de la Cruz, and the family of Father Nacorda who share with him the heavy burden of a common cross. And we pray for the safe return of Father Nacorda.
We pray too that God may touch the hearts of his kidnappers so that they may realize their wrongdoing which we condemn even as we pray for them. Father Nacorda is a man of peace. He is in Basilan only to serve God and to uplift and unite his fellow human beings whatever be their religion. In so wantonly hurting or killing their victims and keeping Father Nacorda hostage, the Abbu Sayyaf kidnappers have severely hurt their own cause. All persons of good will, be they Muslims or Christians, must condemn such criminal acts unworthy of civilized people. We appeal to his kidnappers in the name of our common humanity and in the name of the One Merciful and Just God whom we worhsip to release their captive.
We are also aware that other civilians, including our peace-loving Muslim brothers and sisters, have also been affected by these atrocities of the Abbu Sayyaf. Due to the military operations which were their aftermath, civilians have been forced to flee for their lives, leaving their properties behind. This has given some people opportunities to steal or destroy these properties.
We pray for the return of normalcy and peace to Basilan. May the roots of the tensions and bloodshed that have time and again ravaged that beautiful island and its people be reached and changed by the grace of God and the good will of the people who live there. May vigilante groups not take matters into their own hands in revenge. May healing and forgiveness take place among them and peace prevail once more.
We appeal to our government officials to do everything in their power to right the wrongs and to neutralize the forces that lie at the root of these troubles. Let them restore again the faith of the people in government and their trust in each other.
And to the people of Basilan, especially to the families of the massacre victim and the parishioners of Matarling, we say: We, your brothers, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, share your sufferings and wish to reach out to you through our prayers. May God give you peace and security. May Mary obtain from her Son the breaking down of all animosities and the cessation of all hostilities.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
Bishop of Butuan
July 10, 1994