In 2001, just weeks before the devastating attacks of September 11, gunmen murdered 57-year-old Columban Father Michael Anthony “Rufus” Halley in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.
A native of County Waterford, Ireland, Father Halley had served the vast majority of his mission career in the troubled region of the southern Philippines.
He worked hard to improve the often hostile and sometimes violent relations between Christian and Islamic communities in the area. He won the trust of Muslims and Christians alike wherever he served, even studying the Arabic language and the Holy Quran as a way to learn more about his Islamic neighbors.
On August 28, 2001, Father Halley was motorcycling from a neighboring parish to his home parish in the town of Malabang. Four armed men in ski masks stopped Father Halley and attempted to rob and kidnap him.
But Father Halley was no pushover; he put up a fight, and the assailants shot him dead on the spot. Ironically, Father Halley had been returning from Christian-Muslim Dialogue mission group.
His funeral on September 1, 2001 attracted enormous crowds from all different religious backgrounds, and featured eulogies from Muslim dignitaries in the area.
At this time, Father Halley is the last Columban to be martyred while on mission.