Christmas Prayers for Captives Peruvian Hostages Receive Turkey Dinner, Allowed to Celebrate Mass

By Compiled From News Services | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 26, 1996 | Go to article overview

Christmas Prayers for Captives Peruvian Hostages Receive Turkey Dinner, Allowed to Celebrate Mass


Compiled From News Services, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Peruvians sang Christmas carols and prayed silently Wednesday outside an ambassador's residence full of hostages.

Inside, the hostages celebrated Mass with a bishop and dined on hot turkey delivered by the president's daughter.

Held by leftist guerrillas, 104 people - mainly diplomats and business leaders from at least eight countries - remain in captivity. One more was released Wednesday, Kenji Hirata, a Japanese diplomat, who appeared ill. Red Cross workers took him out of the residence in a wheelchair. About 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, as rays of sunshine broke through Lima's usually cloudy sky, Roman Catholic Bishop Jose Luis Cipriani entered the diplomatic compound to celebrate Christmas Mass.Red Cross Director Michel Minnig, the official go-between, escorted him. In the early afternoon, Keiko Sofia, 21, President Alberto Fujimori's daughter, showed up with 20 hot turkeys garnished with pineapple and cherries. Her uncle, the president's brother, is one of the hostages. Shortly after the turkeys were taken inside the residence, a sign appeared in one window saying, "Gracias hermanos. Feliz Navidad." (Thank you, brothers. Merry Christmas.) Just below the sign was the flag of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, featuring Tupac Amaru, the Indian leader who led an uprising against the Spaniards in 1780. As Sofia left the scene, she said, "I want to . . . make a request to the (rebels) to lay down their arms. This is not the best solution to reach a dialogue." Despite failing to gain any of their demands, the rebels have released more than 430 people, including all the women and children taken hostage Dec. 17. Those still held, including six ambassadors, are enough to keep pressure on President Fujimori and discourage a counterattack. Outside the compound, anxious relatives of the hostages prayed for a peaceful outcome. Asked in the predawn darkness what she'd like to tell her husband, who is inside, Mercedes de Davalos choked back tears as she said, "Only that I'm waiting, that I have a lot of faith and that I love him very much. …

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