No one confirming, many denying Fox News report of Burnham ransom
Fox News reported yesterday that the U.S. government facilitated a privately funded ransom payment of up to $3 million for the release of American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham. The sources of the article are not cited, and the rest of the world is wondering where this story came from. "If such a payment was made, it was done without our consent or knowledge," says New Tribes Mission's latest dispatch. "Over the course of the Burnhams' captivity … there have been numerous unverified and unsubstantiated reports originating from unreliable news sources in the Philippines." New Tribes also reiterates that it follows a strict policy against ransoming its missionaries. But New Tribes spokesman Scott Ross tells The Wichita Eagle that the mission agency wouldn't necessarily be the first to know if such a ransom was made. "We're a little out of the loop on operations between the Philippines and the U.S. government," he says, adding that New Tribes is trying to get Fox News to reveal its source. "No one has confirmed this story."
In fact, many people are denying it. "It's not true," said Philippines presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao. "We're not aware of any ransom payments." He also reiterated the government's strict no-ransom policy. Philippine National Security Adviser Roilo Golez issued an even stronger denial. "This is a very wild report," he told Reuters. "We'd like to categorically state this is not true."
"If ransom was paid, how come they are still there?" Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today. The release of the Burnhams, she said, is "up to the Divine Providence. He makes all things beautiful in his time."
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday avoided directly answering the question, but restated that the U.S. government's "first and foremost" interest in the Philippines is the release of the Burnhams, and then fighting terrorism in that country. After restating U.S. policy against "allowing terrorists, hostage-takers, to benefit from ransom or other concessions," Boucher said he wouldn't go into further detail about Fox News's claim. "There have been all kinds of rumors in the Philippines and elsewhere about people negotiating, things happening or not happening, and I am afraid because of our overriding interest in seeing the Burnhams safely released, I am not going to start commenting on all those rumors," he said. "And the more we start narrowing down what may be the case or not the case, the more it makes it difficult for us to pursue our ultimate goals, which are to see the Burnhams released and to see the hostage-takers brought to justice."
Meanwhile, military efforts to free the Burnhams continue. Earlier this week, the Philippines rejected a deal offered by the Abu Sayyaf for a cease-fire and the release of Filipina nurse Deborah Yap (the only hostage besides the Burnhams) in exchange for the medical treatment of one of its leaders.
The Philippine government says it's closing in. (Heard that one before?) This morning, AFP reported: "Philippine troops have zeroed in on Muslim guerrillas holding two American hostages and stepped up naval patrols around their island hideout to prevent them from slipping away, officials said on Wednesday. … Among signs that the protracted hostage drama might be close to its end was the recovery of personal items which officials said appeared to belong to the hostages."
"Philippine troops have clashed several times in the last week with Muslim rebels holding an American missionary couple hostage, leading to suggestions here that an attempt to rescue the couple from the remote jungle island of Basilan may be imminent," The New York Times reported Sunday. "A number of factors … point to stepped-up efforts to rescue the Burnhams. … Philippine officials have said they believe that the hostages are now under the control of Ismilon Hapilon, one of the most ruthless and tactically skilled members of the Abu Sayyaf."
But the Abu Sayyaf may have plans of its own for Holy Week. "Intelligence reports have it that Abu Sayyaf hit men have slipped into Zamboanga City to carry out the attacks on government installations and public places, including Catholic churches," The Philippine Star reported Monday.
The Burnhams were abducted exactly ten months ago today.
- Fallibility in Holy Week's narrative | The key to understanding the humanity of the church is to understand the humanity of the Gospels, texts that embody the capacity to get things wrong, with terrible consequences. (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)
- Is Jesus the only way to God? Yes, no, maybe | In this post-Sept. 11 world, many observers are saying religions that teach that they are the only way to salvation are at the root of many of the world's troubles (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
Is religion violent?
- Religion, violence forever intertwined | For much of recorded history, people of all faiths have been killing each other in the name of their deities. (The Baltimore Sun)
- Faith-based violence and religious zealotry | The need for sober secularism is more profound than ever (Salim Muwakkil, Chicago Tribune)
- Other people's religions | To scrub Scripture of intolerance, you have to erase religious history. (Judith Shulevitz, The New York Times)
- Rights group says China detained underground Catholic bishop | Police in Zhengding say they are unaware of Bishop Jia's detention (Voice of America)
- China confirms crackdown on Koreans | Police said Monday they are rounding up North Koreans hiding along China's border and sending them home (Associated Press)
- RSS, Christian leaders talks fail | RSS and Christian leaders on Friday said they had failed to bridge growing differences over conversions and violence which have marred relations between the two communities (AFP)
- Nigeria in crisis over Shari'ah law | With the northern states indicating that they intend to ignore the minister's intervention, the stage is clearly set for a constitutional battle (BBC)
- The impending ban on drumming | Christians, traditionalists likely to clash again this year (Ghanaian Chronicle)
- Last year: Christians and Animists Face Off Over Loud Worship in Ghana (Weblog, May 10, 2001)
- Rwandan priest arrested in Cameroon | Hormidas Nsegimana accused of being one of the organizers of the 1994 genocide (BBC)
- Ugandan troops shot for priest's murder | Two soldiers have been executed by firing squad for murdering an Irish priest and two companions in Uganda's volatile north-eastern region of Karamoja. (BBC)
- Also: Priest condemns Uganda execution | "If [the soldiers] did fire the shots, they were only acting on orders from senior officers," said Father Jones from the St Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions. (BBC)
- Salvadorans honor murdered archbishop | Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was killed 22 years ago (BBC)
- Dean of Forman Christian College hurt in Pakistan church bombing | Christy Munir suffered shrapnel wounds and a broken leg but was expected to recover fully (Chicago Tribune)
- Also: No breakthrough in church attack probe: Pakistani police (AFP)
- Rigid Christian sex roles hurt Andrea Yates | The Christian fundamentalist beliefs that enshrine male control over women played a role in the destruction of the Yates family. Christian fundamentalist religions should preach a gospel of equality between the sexes. (Anne Eggebroten, Women's E-News)
- Woman welcomes 'right to die' ruling | 43-year-old woman, known only as 'Miss B', said the ruling that her life support machine could be switched off was "a balanced and well thought-out judgment" (BBC)
- Earlier: Paralysed woman wins right to die (The Guardian, London)
- Government and Oregon vie over doctor-aided suicide | Ruling expected next month (The New York Times)
- Pope speaks out on treatment of dying | Using medical techniques to preserve a patient's life "at all costs" could be "useless and not fully respectful of the patient," he says (BBC)
- Abortion foes seize on reports of cancer link in ad campaign | Several studies suggesting increased risk of developing breast tumors are disputed. (Los Angeles Times)
- Time to bring morning-after pill out of the shadows | Despite the preponderance of sex talk and sexual imagery in American media, remarkably little information has gotten around about morning-after pills (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune)
Missions & ministry:
- Minister sues Food for the Poor | Richard Thorne says he was fired as telephone solicitor for refusing to participate in prayer sessions. (The South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
- Few stay for Faith Night as most hockey fans leave after Predators victory | Only 200 or so of a sold-out hockey crowd stayed for music and ministry (The Tennessean)
- Church ads reach 'R-rated' culture | Churches in southeastern Virginia are employing matchbooks, movie previews, and Jesus-detailed urinal screens. (Associated Press)
- Modern missions take more than faith | Missionary service has become more professional and specialized, and the amount of training and preparation—and expense—has increased as well. (The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.)
- American doctor's mission keeps calling him back to Kabul | G. Gordon Hadley has managed to adapt to Afghanistan's changing political tides in his quest to train budding physicians in the nation. (Los Angeles Times)
- Full-time Bangladesh mission matter of the heart | Frank and Alves Weirman say it's a mystery why they decided to leave Nebraska to become full-time missionaries in Bangladesh (Kearney [Neb.] Hub)
- In chapel's closing, a ground zero sanctuary is lost | Recovery workers who have relied on St. Paul's Chapel are not sure where they will go when the church closes its doors. (The New York Times)
- Still in debt, prison chapel sits empty | Worship services for inmates haven't been permitted because state officials haven't assumed ownership of the property (Des Moines [Iowa] Register)
- Faith, hope healing | The Healing Rooms, a 5-month-old interdenominational effort involving more than 200 volunteers from 35 evangelical churches, is but one sign of a growing interest in the intersection of religion and health. (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Dwindling order of nuns resorts to soul searching | The first Greek Orthodox monastery to be established in England is facing extinction unless its two remaining nuns can find new recruits. (The Times, London)
Pope John Paul II:
- Sidelined Pope sparks retirement debate | A pope not in top form during Holy Week is like having a soccer star sidelined during a World Cup. (Reuters)
- Also: Ailing Pope, on mobile platform, reaches audience hall as he pushes ahead with schedule (Associated Press)
- Pope lets cardinal fill in during Palm Sunday mass | It was the first time since his ascension that John Paul allowed another to perform the liturgy on Palm Sunday (CBC)
- Arthritic knee forces Pope to curtail activities (The Irish Times)
- Pope sits out Palm Sunday Mass for the first time (The Telegraph, London)
- Christians, Jews and Wotan | What we still need to learn from Nazism. (Robert L. Bartley, The Wall Street Journal)
- Plumbing the myths surrounding the True Cross | A review of The Quest for the True Cross, by Carsten Peter Thiede & Matthew d'Ancona (The Baltimore Sun)
- Wrestling with the origins of the Torah | Days before Passover, Southland Jewish leaders from Orthodox to Reconstructionist gather to debate the roots of their faith. (Los Angeles Times)
- Actor burned at the stake while playing Cranmer | English reformer died in 1556, actor was rushed to hospital (The Daily Telegraph)
- Priceless Bible goes digital | Using digital scanning and profiling systems, digitizing specialist firm Octavo is hoping to create the most accurate possible images of The Gutenberg Bible housed in the US Library of Congress (BBC)
- Whitby Abbey's past is the shape of things to come | New visitor center opens at site of 664 synod (The Times, London)
- Those peripatetic Presbyterians | About Phoenix's first Protestants (Bonnie Henry, The Arizona Star)
- A modest proposal to temper temptation | Bring back the one tried-and-true guarantee of celibacy: castration. (James P. Pinkerton, Los Angeles Times)
- Values fall prey to hypocrisy | What we have learned from recent headlines is that "traditional values" are not necessarily best upheld by traditional institutions (Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times)
- It's not just Catholics who have to worry | The days of conducting their own internal, and possibly biased, investigations before calling cops may be over soon. (Douglas Montero, New York Post)
- Church ending cover-up | In this life, we mortals must rely on the law to protect our children. In the next life, let God pass sentence on these monsters. (Editorial, The Denver Post)
- Choosing celibacy | Throughout the history of Christianity, celibacy has been part of a religious life dedicated to serving others. (James Martin, The New York Times)
- The Catholic Church's culture clash | This is not a celibacy problem with frustrated priests being driven to perversion and molestation. It is, in the end, a fundamental cultural conflict, the outcome of which will script the future shape of American Catholicism. (Philip Jenkins, The Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
- Faith in self can help keep children safe | Why I didn't become a victim (Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press)
- Past sex crime catches up to pastor | Paul Ilger is ousted from Hope Chapel of the Valley after his arrest for failing to register as an offender. (Los Angeles Times)
- Supreme Court won't hear Va. sex abuse case | Case would outline when school boards can be held responsible for employees who are found to be child molesters. (The Washington Post)
- Church's actions disappoint Catholics | Most Catholics say their church has done a poor job handling the problem of sexual abuse by priests, and almost a third say they are less likely now to give money to the church (USA Today)
- Colorado Senate weighs clergy-abuse bill | Would require reporting to law enforcement (The Denver Post)
- Law sees abuse accusation as smear against late cardinal | Allegation made by Hanover man draws questions (The Boston Globe)
- Cardinal Mahony won't name abusers | He says to do so would traumatize victims further, but they can break confidentiality agreements if they wish. (Los Angeles Times)
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