Guest / Limited Access /

It was supposed to be a vacation. It became a life-threatening abduction by one of the world's deadliest terrorist organizations. And it's time for the ordeal to end. The story of Martin and Gracia Burnham will be familiar to many Christianity Today readers. On May 27, 2001, the New Tribes missionaries were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a resort in the southern Philippines. They had been serving in the country for 15 years and were taking a romantic getaway. The militant Muslim group Abu Sayyaf attacked, and within 20 minutes had taken the Burnhams and 18 others hostage.

One year later, Abu Sayyaf has beheaded at least one of those hostages, another American named Guillermo Sobero. Other hostages were freed: some ransomed, others apparently let go to make the kidnappers harder to find. The Burnhams and a Filipina nurse, however, are still captive. And their life is reportedly horrific. They are weak and malnourished, and have suffered from malaria. They are forced to march through the Basilan Island jungles. Martin was injured early on in fighting between the guerrillas and the Philippine military. He is reportedly chained at all times, either to a tree or to a terrorist.

Gracia, meanwhile, is experiencing serious emotional strain. "We think about everyone so often—and I'll admit that I cry a lot," she said in a November letter. Other hostages have suggested that this may be a vast understatement.

Both are likely facing pressure to convert to Islam; several of the now-freed hostages say they converted from Christianity to their captors' religion during their abduction. No one should have to experience such terror. What makes this story even more tragic is that it could have been resolved almost as soon as it ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended
'Machine Gun Preacher' Under Heavy Fire
Sam Childers, subject of a new movie, is accused of neglecting children at his orphanage in South Sudan.
TrendingMark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
"I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission."
Editor's PickBless This Tackle? Not a Prayer
Bless This Tackle? Not a Prayer
Christians’ misguided fight for football devotions isn’t working.
Comments
Christianity Today
Free the Burnhams
hide thisJune 10 June 10

In the Magazine

June 10, 2002

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.