Court sentences missionary kidnappers in the Philippines

By December 10, 2007

Philippines (MNN) — There has been some resolution to the 2001 kidnapping of 20 people in the Philippines. That hostage situation resulted in the death of a missionary from New Tribes Mission, Martin Burnham. A court in Manila Thursday sentenced 14 members of an Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf to life in prison.

Gracia Burnham, a former hostage, is closing yet another chapter in what most people would describe as a nightmare. She and her husband, Martin, were kidnapped in the Philippines and held hostage in the jungle for more than a year. Martin eventually died during the military's rescue effort.

"I testified about that in the Philippines four years ago. And when there was no decision made, I just thought they had forgotten the case. I think this was a big step in keeping peace and order in the Philippines, said Gracia Burnham.

If the sentence had been handed down two years earlier, the terrorists would have received the death penalty. The Philippine president repealed the death penalty two years ago.

Burnham says she prays for her kidnappers daily. "I would just like more than anything for these guys to hear the Gospel of Jesus while they're in jail. I'm glad they weren't sentenced to death and they have a chance to think about what's happened to them in jail. I would love for them to hear about the forgiveness of Jesus."

Burnham thinks perhaps she'll be able to someday share that message. "I would love to go back and be able to visit with them and just talk with them through an interpreter, and most of all get some literature in their language that talk about salvation."

While Burnham has forgiven those that kidnapped her and killed her husband, "It's an on-going thing. And every time I have one of those thoughts of bitterness, I just forgive again just as soon as it comes up. Once you start in that pattern of forgiveness, it becomes easier."

According to Burnham, "God has forgiven me much, so I think it's my responsibility to forgive others."

Burnham speaks at churches across the country at least once a month telling her story.

Pray for the Burnham family during this difficult time of the year.

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