Father Bossi is a Catholic missionary in the Phillipines who was kidnapped by the Taliban. When the Phillipine government sent soldiers to rescue him, the Taliban most cruelly killed the soldiers by decapitation and mulitated their bodies. This precipitated military action to wipe out the Taliban from the Philipines while not offending the Islamic tribes who live in the those islands and who have peace treaty with the predominantly Catholic Phillipine government. I have some youtube videos of Bossi discussing his time in captivity here.
He gave this wonderful speech to young people, encouraging them to remember and help the poor, that I will quote:
“Never in all my life did I think I would find myself in front of so many young people. I apologise if I seem a little awkward, but public speaking is not a strong point of mine. I am convinced that everybody has a dream. Everyone has something they wish to say. Not just in words, there are those who express themselves in gestures, in silent solidarity, or with a simple smile. What is important is that the dream of life is kept alive. What’s important is that we fly! Allow yourselves to be taken over by your ideals! I, myself, began to dream when I entered the seminary, I kept on dreaming during my priestly ordination, I lived my dream for many years in the Philippines. I touched it with my own hands during my captivity.
“I am a missionary, one of the thousands of priests committed to the poorest countries of the world. I have lived in the Philippines for over 27 years. I will go on living there. This story will not change, it will not change me. Actually no, there is something different: I haven’t smoked since the 27th of June. I hope I won’t start again.
“It all began on June 10th. It was the feast of Corpus Domini. A feast I hold particularly dear, because it reminds me of the Christ of the broken bread for humanity, the lamb sacrificed for the hope of mankind; the innocent victim who took on the injustices of men and women and the sufferance of the world.
“I had celebrated Mass at 7.00 in the Church of Payao and then I had gotten on my motorbike to go to another celebration. I saw uniformed men, with machine guns. I thought it was the army. Then I understood that I was in trouble. They had taken hold of me.
“As I was getting onto the boat with them my first thoughts went to my parishioners in Payao.
“During the long sea journey, under the canvas cover I asked myself what the Lord wanted of me.
“And that is how 40 days of captivity began. I felt hunger, a lot of hunger and exhaustion. But I was not afraid to die. I tried to speak with my kidnappers.
“I asked them: “You pray just like me to the God of Peace. How can you pray with a machine gun on your left and a hostage on your right?’ They replied that Allah was in their hearts. Kidnapping is a job. Paid to carry out a kidnap that was what they did.
“I spent 40 days on the mountain. They brought me there by force, I saw frightened and poor people all around me, people who believed themselves strong with a gun in their hands. I felt compassion for them. I even tried to put myself in their shoes. I even saw God’s goodness in them, that same God who takes you by the hand and never leaves you. The God which helps you overcome your fears and asking you to be open to him.
“During the 40 days of my desert in the forest I felt myself renewed. My prayers became more essential and strong, my openness to God more incisive.
“In forced difficulties you experience God’s tenderness. It helps you to recover the dimension of your being a gift. In that moment I asked the Father to send a priest to Payao; another priest to announce the Gospel to my people.
“My kidnappers were all really young, around 20. I understood they had already killed. I tried to understand them, through my questions to start a dialogue with my kidnappers. I realised that they were poor devils, hardened by poverty, a poverty which leads them to doing hurtful things.
“No news from the outside got through. Days passed and I felt discouraged.
“With the rosary, I could keep count of the days, but the count was exhausting. I feared that my captivity would last 3, maybe 4 months, so that when they told me that they were freeing me, I didn’t believe them. I thought they were making fun of me. Instead I was freed. July 19th.
“I wanted to phone home immediately, to reassure my mother, Amalia, who on that very day celebrated her 87th birthday. It was an instinctive telephone call, a moment of panic.
“I have been in Italy now for some weeks, but I want to return to my parish in Payao as soon as possible, to my children. The poor need people who can love without limits without conditions, and in Payao people are poor. I was physically taken captive, but there are too many who are captives of poverty. Their prison sentence is lifelong. Here, in Italy, I often happen to hear children, refuse a plate of food with the exclamation “It’s disgusting!” In the Philippines I see their contemporaries searching threw the trash and thanking God when they find something to eat. There is a deep distortion in all of this. Here we need to regain values, there a humane condition of life.”
At the end, very moved, Father Bossi added: “I asked myself several times why they abducted me. I don’t like taking centre stage, but I figured it out. It is because among us there are many people who in silence take care of their brother, parents, a disabled person . . . . I am here on their behalf, in name of those who work in silence. Their witness should become bolster our action, give strength to our dream.”