A Catholic aid worker who was kidnapped for three months in Sudan has told The Catholic Herald that his faith kept him going and that he refused to convert to Islam.
Patrick Noonan, a 48-year-old former soldier from Bradford, was kidnapped by anti-government rebels in South Darfur on March 6 and kept in chains and fed only oranges and camel milk during part of his three-month captivity.
Mr Noonan said: “I was isolated in a corner in approximately two metre by one and a half metres, in chains, stripped naked. I’m a devout Catholic, I used to pray in the mornings and the evening even before I was kidnapped, and then four times a day when I was kidnapped.
“I just thought about my family, my faith. It was definitely my faith that got me through, and being raised in a council estate in Bradford, as well as the military background.”
During his ordeal, he said, one of his Muslim captors would pray beside him. “One guy spoke perfect English and he was a devout Muslim and he would stand either side of the partition, and he tried to convert me to Islam, offered me two wives, and to fight for the rebels. He tried twice, and I told him I believed in Jesus Christ and I could have only have only one wife, and I could not fight because I work for the United Nations and am a neutral.”
Mr Noonan spent 23 years as a soldier with the Prince of Wales Regiment, and afterwards worked for the UN in Iraq from 2005.
At one point, after two months on oranges and water from a well, he was seriously unwell, and survived because of “a significant experience… which convinced me that we have a guardian angel”.
He said: “Around the third week in April I was feeling extremely weak. This particular day I was feeling extremely weak, I had chest pains with the temperature approximately 45 degrees in the canvas shelter. I thought I was going to die and fell asleep (I don’t know how long I was asleep for), I woke up so strong with a voice going through my head saying ‘these people are not big enough to beat me’.
“The week before I was kidnapped, I had spoken to my aunt in Dublin telling her I would see her over the St Patrick’s weekend. When I was released and arrived in England, I was informed by my mother that my aunt had died on April 4, therefore I am convinced that the person that kept me alive was my dead aunt.”