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Sailor’s Society chaplains counsel seafarers kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf

Sailor’s Society chaplains counsel seafarers kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf
Sailor’s Society chaplains have been providing emotional support to 10 seafarers kidnapped and held by Abu Sayyaf terrorists for five weeks.

Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino Salafist Islam group which swore allegiance to Islamic State (IS) in 2014, kidnapped the men as part of a spate of ransom attacks in the Malacca Strait and Gulf of Guinea. They were released on 1 May, and were not physically harmed.

“We were very stressed because they frequently threatened to slit our throats,” one of the freed seafarers said.

Their release comes a week after Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian businessman John Ridsdel. The group is still holding at least 11 people hostage, according to authorities.

“Although they are all home safely, it is a real possibility that both the seafarers and their families will be suffering from stress after this traumatic incident,” explained Sailors’ Society chaplain Muhartono Tito, based at the Indonesian port of Banjarmasin.

“I acted as the liaison between the ship owner and the families. They were incredibly worried about the safety of their loved ones. When news broke that the terrorists had freed the men, I called their family members who were incredibly grateful.

“I have offered counselling and have asked the ship owner to give the seafarers a grace of period of a month to recover.”

In April, Sailors’ Society launched a second Crisis Response Centre in Ukraine. Members from the new centre have offered support to a crew who were recently released after being held captive for more than two weeks by pirates off the Nigerian coast.

Sandra Welch, deputy chief executive and director of programme at Sailors’ Society, said: “Our Crisis Response Centres provide rapid response trauma care and counselling service for survivors of disasters at sea, such as accidents or piracy attacks. Sailors’ Society transforms lives at home, in port and at sea and it is important that we are able to help not just those directly affected but also their families.”