AS WE issue this Statement, unidentified persons are holding hostage two humanitarian workers presumably somewhere in Basilan Province. The kidnap victims, Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc. (NFI) Program Officer Esperancita Hupida and Manila-based freelance community development specialist Millet Mendoza, were abducted on Monday, September 15, in Cabangalan Barangay, Tipo-Tipo Municiapality, Basilan.

We, the members of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRMSP) based in Zamboanga City, condemn this unwarranted and violent abduction of the defenseless and innocent women. The fact that they were forcibly taken while doing their personal vocation and official duties and mission to help underprivileged and neglected residents of Tipo-Tipo Municipality, as they have been doing for others in the other towns of Basilan for the past many years, makes their abduction a very regrettable act of disservice not only to them and their organizations but more so to the poor residents of Basilan that they serve.

Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza are compassionate and morally courageous persons who have braved, as we know they continue to brave, the dangers of working in conflicted, violence-prone areas, particularly Basilan. They deserve to be treated with the same compassion and moral decency by those who come into contact with them, but especially those who they serve whether directly and indirectly.

We urge, nay demand, any and all authorities in Basilan to take all measures to effect the safe and speedy freedom of Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza. By your office you have a sacred duty to enforce the rule of law and ensure the security of the law-abiding and peace-loving constituents of Basilan.

The present Holy Month of Ramadan is a time when the believers of Islam are called upon to exert and practice special effort to achieve personal spiritual purity and generosity towards others. By this sacred, religious spirit and model of personal and social conduct demanded by the Most Merciful and Compassionate Allah specially during the Holy Month of Ramadan, we implore and ask the kidnappers to immediately release Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza.

We appeal to all God-fearing and peace-loving people to pray for Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza, and for their kidnappers, too. May God bless us all.

Zamboanga City, September 17, 2008.

R. Catholic Convenor

Muslim Convenor

Evangelicals Convenor

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