Vigil at DU for UN worker kidnapped in Congo

Family and friends host vigil for man with ties to Denver who was kidnapped while working for the United Nations in Africa.

KUSA - An American United Nations worker, with ties to Denver, is among six people who were kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Michael Sharp, 34, and 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.

"We're hopeful," Michael's father, John Sharp told the The Wichita Eagle. "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."

In a statement, the UN says its peacekeeping operation in the DRC is doing everything to find the workers. The U.S State Department says it has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. citizens overseas. They're working with local authorities and are cooperating with their search efforts.

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.

There will be a vigil at 8 p.m. Wednesday night for Sharp at the Evans Chapel on the University of Denver campus.  Coordinated vigils will be held at the same in other time zones across the country to honor Michael, his family and the other families involved.

Doctor Jonathan Moyer, a professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at DU, has known Michael since he was a young child. He helped organize Wednesday night's vigil in honor of his friend and to help bring awareness to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"He is a person who cares about the world. Is engaged with the world and trying to make it a better place," Moyer said. "The one thing we are doing here is we are trying to take how he saw the world and make sure people are increasingly aware"

Moyer helped organize the vigil to raise awareness about the abduction as well as raise awareness about the conflict.

Michael also has immediate family members in the Denver area.

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.

John Sharp says 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."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report) 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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