Latest friend of the Burnhams: Heather Mercer
It was inevitable that the story of the Shelter Now aid workers and that of Martin and Gracia Burnham would meet somewhere this side of heaven. Wednesday, during the day of prayer for the release of the New Tribes missionaries, Martin Burnham's parents enlisted the help of Heather Mercer for lobbying Washington. "So, she always has to wear a headscarf?" Mercer asked while looking at a recent photo of Gracia. "I always had to wear a headscarf, too." The Wichita Eagle reports that lobbying for the U.S. government to do more to free the Burnhams has a much higher profile than it did during the elder Burnhams' last trip to Washington a month ago. For example, 78 members of the U.S. Congress have signed a letter urging Philippine president Gloria Arroyo to speed up efforts. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) is making a trip to the Philippines to attract more attention to the missionary couple's plight.

Meanwhile, the situation does seem to be heating up, but it has been for months. Basilan governor Wahab Akbar released a letter yesterday urging against ransom payments. "Rumors have circulated among civilian and other officials in this province that a 50-million peso ($960,000) ransom will be paid to the Abu Sayyaf for the release of Martin and Gracia Burnham and Deborah Yap by unknown negotiators," he acknowledged. "I appeal to all to help us stop paying ransom. Instead, support the military operations here."

The U.S. government seems to be supporting the military operations there more every day. Hundreds of sniper rifles, mortars, grenade launchers, and other weapons arrived for the Philippine military from the U.S. Army today; almost all are designated to be used against the Muslim Abu Sayyaf ...

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