Update Tuesday night: Alan Johnston is in good health, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmad has told the UK's consul-general to Jerusalem, Richard Makepeace. In a statement, al-Ahmad said, "The information that we have indicates that Johnston is in good health. The [Palestinian] government is fully co-ordinating with the presidency and all security services to pursue the extensive efforts to release Johnston and bring him back safely to his home, family and his work."
Six weeks after his abduction in Gaza, there is still no definitive word on the fate of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. Speaking at a prayer service Monday at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, leaders of three faiths urged the journalist's captors to release him.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza have launched a website calling for Johnston's release. The website free-alan.com includes a brief biography of Johnston, along with messages in Arabic and English calling on his captors to let him go. "Alan you need to know that those who kidnapped you do not represent the Palestinians," reads one message.
Johnston, 44, has not been seen since he was seized at gunpoint March 12 in Gaza City. Speaking during a visit Saturday to Athens, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that Johnston is alive. "I have said he is alive and we are making efforts to get him released," Mr Abbas told reporters, after meeting Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
On Friday, Reporters Without Borders urged the Palestinian president to do more to secure Mr Johnston's release. Abbas previously has said he knows who is holding Alan Johnston, but has not indicated whether contact has been made with the captors. On April 15 an unknown militant group claimed it had killed Johnston, but BBC and Palestinian officials have said they have been unable to verify the claim.
Since Johnston's abduction, almost daily protests have been held in Britain, the Palestinian territories and other parts of the Middle East. Johnston is the only Western journalist still permanently based in Gaza. He had been due to complete his posting at the end of March.
At the multi-faith prayer service Monday in London, Rabbi Mark Winer, senior rabbi at the West London synagogue, drew attention to the significance of bringing together representatives of the three major faiths in the Middle East. "Despite the different narratives and interpretations we may have for what is going on in our common Holy Land, we are united in our resolve that the kidnapping of a journalist, the kidnapping of Alan Johnston, is outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour regardless of the truth or justice of anyone's cause," Winer said.
Winer noted while all three faiths have their extremists, those taking part in the vigil wished to associate themselves with peacemakers who stand for mutual respect for differences.
Dr. Abduljalil Sajid, imam and chairman of the UK Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, spoke of vigils that had been taking place in British mosques. "We ask for God's sake, for Allah's sake, for humanity's sake please let Alan go free," he said. Dr. Sajid challenged Johnston's captors: "It is not right to keep a person against his will and it is not right that you should damage the good cause of the Palestinians."
The vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Rev. Nicholas Holtam, prayed for all in captivity "and in whose heart the lamp of hope burns low." Each person attending the vigil - many of them Johnston's BBC colleagues- followed the clerics' example in lighting a candle and placing it at the foot of Alan Johnston's picture.
On the portico of the church overlooking Trafalgar Square, Mark Byford, the BBC's deputy director-general, led the gathering in a silent reflection. "For the last 75 years, the BBC has relied on an extraordinary group of people who go into the world's trouble spots, often just as everyone else is getting out - remarkable, courageous journalists who brave hardship and face danger because they believe the story needs to be told and who are driven by truth and integrity," Byford said. "No-one is braver - or faced more hardship - than Alan Johnston." Byford said the BBC is continuing to do all it can to ensure Johnston's safe release.
Information for this piece was compiled from the BBC and various media reports. Photograph, Chapelle Royale, Versailles, France.