Parishioners of pastor kidnapped in Egypt pray for safe return
A day after the Rev. Michel Louis and an Everett woman were kidnapped in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula Friday, Sister Irma Pasien-Joseph stood in front of Louis’ predominantly Haitian congregation in Mattapan and led a simple prayer.
“Just to release him,” she said on Saturday afternoon. “That’s all.”
Jirmy Abu-Masuh, a 32-year-old Egyptian Bedouin of the Tarbeen tribe, kidnapped Louis, 61, Lisa Alphonse, 39, of Everett, and their interpreter in attempts to coerce the Egyptian authorities into releasing his 62-year-old uncle from prison, according to the Associated Press. Abu-Masuh told the Associated Press he will keep his captives safe, but will abduct more people if his uncle is not released.
The U.S. State Department is aware of the situation but does not confirm the names of kidnapping victims or provide details of such incidents because of privacy laws, said spokesman John Echard.
“We’re in close contact with the Egyptian authorities, who are doing everything they can to bring about their safe release,” he said. “We will provide consular assistance as appropriate.”
At the pastor’s home in Dorchester, where family members gathered, the younger of his two sons, Daniel Louis Jr., said the family is hopeful for Louis’ safe return, but did not want to comment any further.
“We are in good spirits,” Daniel said.
Louis’ older son, Jean J.M. Louis, said in a written statement that his father was in Egypt, stopping there as part of a mission trip to Israel, with a group of 23 church members.
“We are asking for prayer for the safe return of everyone,” Jean Louis said in the statement.
Saturday’s service at the Eglise de Dieu de la Pentecote, which Louis founded 33 years ago, is normally reserved for praying for the poor and disadvantaged. This week, however, about 70 members crowded into the square white building to pray for the safe return of their pastor and those kidnapped with him.
“I personally, I love Pastor Michel,” said Fritz Jocelyn, a church member, speaking into a microphone at the front of the church as the crowd cheered in agreement. “I learned so much from him ... He’s always there to lift our spirits.”
Louis travels to the Sinai Peninsula every year to see the mountain where, according to the Old Testament, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, parishioners said. He also travels to Haiti with members of his congregation for missionary work, and is very active in Mattapan’s Haitian community, they said.
“He is a very important person in the community,” Jocelyn said. “Not just the Haitian community, but the American and Latino communities also.”
Tamisha Civil, 31, of Hyde Park, said she grew up in the church Louis founded.
“He’s the face of the church, what can you say?” she said, standing outside the church door during the service Saturday balancing her 11-month-old son, Aaron Samuel Civil, on her hip. “He’s always supporting us, always right behind us.”
Though she is worried about her pastor, Civil said she believes Louis will return safely.
“There’s a lot of miracles that happen here,” she said, the congregation singing the final prayer of the service. “A lot of miracles.”Lisa Kocian of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alejandra Matos can be reached at email@example.com.