While 61-year-old Pastor Michel Louis spent a third day as a hostage in Egypt, his Mattapan congregation crowded into a sweltering church and prayed for his safe return home.
A man who is demanding the release of his uncle took Louis, along with an Everett woman and their tour guide, as hostages on Friday.
On Sunday Egyptian officials were planning talks to secure the release of Louis and Lisa Alphonse, 39, according to Reuters.
“He’s our pastor and we’re praying for him,” said Villa LaBranche, as he left a Mass at Louis’ church Sunday afternoon. “It’s very sad because we didn’t expect this.”
Louis and Alphonse were part of a group missionary trip to Israel by way of Egypt when the incident occurred.
A Bedouin tribesman, Germy Abu Masouh, said he had kidnapped the people in central Sinai in protest at the jailing of his uncle on drug charges, according to Reuters. In an interview with the Associated Press, Abu Masouh said the hostages were being treated as guests and fed well and were allowed to use the phone. He also told the news agency that he would take more hostages until his uncle is released.
The group was on a bus in the mountains of Egypt when the hostage takers stopped the vehicle. Louis’ wife was also on the bus, but was not taken.
Sunday morning at Louis’ Mattapan church, Eglise de Dieu de la Pentecote, more than a hundred parishioners prayed out loud and raised their hands.
Louis, whose picture was projected on the wall near the end of the service, was mentioned multiple times by church leaders.
“We are here this morning because we need a word, a word from God to bring us out of what we are going through,” said one church leader to the crowd. “Ask God to give you strength because we do not know how long he’s in the situation.”
While Reuters reported that Egyptian officials were preparing talks to secure the release, a spokesman for the State Department said they had no updates Sunday.
“We are aware that two U.S. citizens were kidnapped on the Sinai Peninsula on July 13. We continue to be in close contact with Egyptian authorities who are doing everything they can to bring about their safe release. We will provide consular assistance as needed. Due to privacy laws, we are unable to provide further details regarding this incident,” said John Echard, a State Department spokesman, in a statement.
Louis’ son, Jean Louis, appeared on CNN Sunday morning and said his father was not aware of any risk in Egypt. He said he is concerned about his father’s health because he is a diabetic.
“We are concerned … but we’re in good faith,” Jean Louis said. “We just want to see our father get home and see our sister member get home also and we also want to see the tour guide come home, too. We want to see everybody come home safely.”