U.N. worker kidnapped in Congo got militias to give up child soldiers, dad says
HESSTON, KANSAS – An American United Nations worker who was among six people kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo was doing humanitarian work and has had some success in persuading militia leaders to give up child soldiers, his father said.
Michael Sharp, 34, believes that years of violence in eastern Congo have solved nothing and was working to do something about it, his father, John Sharp, told The Wichita Eagle (bit.ly/2n07Blu ).
Michael Sharp and a Swedish U.N. worker, Zahida Katalan, were abducted along with three Congolese drivers and a translator while driving through the Kasai Central province, a Congo government spokesman said Monday.
The kidnappers hadn’t been identified as of Monday. Judicial authorities in the province were working with the U.N. mission in Congo to free the abductees.
John Sharp, who lives with his wife, Michele Miller Sharp, in the central Kansas community of Hesston and teaches at Hesston College, said their son is resourceful and knew the risks.
“We’re hopeful,” John Sharp said. “The U.N. has been good about staying in touch with us. M.J. is resourceful. He’s smart. He knows the culture, knows the games. If anybody can get out, he will.”
Michael Sharp previously spent three years in Germany counseling U.S. troops who were interested in becoming conscientious objectors, his father said. Before joining the U.N., he worked for three years for the Mennonite Central Committee in Central Africa.
Congo is home to multiple militias competing for stakes in its rich mineral resources, and John Sharp said that with the U.N., his son has had some success in persuading militia leaders to give up child soldiers.
He said he last spoke to his son in late February.
“We came to terms with his work quite some time ago,” John Sharp said. “We have known that this is his life and passion. We are fully supportive. We’re concerned, yes, but we have visualized this moment. We’ve hoped it would not come, but we’ve known that it could.”
Michael Sharp grew up in Indiana before moving with his parents to Kansas in 2005. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when not working abroad.
“We’re hoping for a resolution that does not include violence, and we’ve expressed that to the (United Nations),” John Sharp said. “It would be ironic if that were used to rescue him when he has committed his life to nonviolent resolution. We hope and pray for his rescue and delivery.”