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    » 12/28/2010, 00.00

    PHILIPPINES

    Churches full in Mindanao despite concerns over attacks



    Sources tell AsiaNews about poor security in Jolo (Mindanao), a town targeted by Muslim extremists for years. The chapel attacked on 25 December is located inside a military camp where attackers were able to place and detonate a bomb undisturbed. In Zamboanga, thousands of worshippers attend Christmas celebrations. For Father Mariani (PIME), “This is a sign that there is still a lot of hope among people.”

    Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – Tensions remain high in Jolo (Mindanao) following the Christmas day attack against the Sacred Heart chapel in Asturias that wounded 11 people during Mass. A source in Mindanao said that many people are concerned by the lack of security in an area that has been targeted by Muslim terrorists for years.

    “The chapel,” the source said, “is inside a military camp. I was struck by the fact that security forces were unable to stop the attacker.” The bomb was in fact placed under the church’s ceiling and was detonated to strike worshippers during Mass. “The attacker had the necessary time to act undisturbed,” the source said.

    News of the attack has raised concerns and fear among the people of Mindanao. However, according to Fr Giulio Mariani, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), thousands of people still took part in Christmas celebrations.

    “Unlike Europe, where people fill churches only for Christmas Midnight Mass, here in Mindanao, we are happy to have hundreds of worshippers attend all our celebrations, as early as the Rooster Novena, a thanksgiving Mass celebrated at dawn before Christmas. Many young people chose [instead] Midnight Mass.” For the priest, “This is a sign that there is still a lot of hope among people.”

    In a statement, President Beniño Aquino said that Abu Sayyaf was probably involved in the chapel attack even though no one has yet to claim responsibility.

    “The Muslim community is unhappy with the situation,” Fr Mariani said. “It has expressed its closeness to Christians during Christmas, especially after news about the Jolo attack”.

    For the clergyman, interfaith dialogue will continue despite attacks by Muslim terrorists. Christians and Muslims will continue to enjoy each other’s festivities as a token of their mutual solidarity and friendship. (S.C.)

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    See also

    16/07/2010 PHILIPPINES
    Remittances by Filipino migrant workers up by 6 per cent
    More than US$ 1.58 billion are sent home in May of this year, 6 per cent higher compared to last year, and this despite the global economic crisis. “Higher remittances can be seen as a sign of hope and support for the new government by migrants who feel better about sending money home,” says PIME missionary Fr Mariani.

    03/02/2006 PHILIPPINES
    Massacre of Christians in Jolo deals heavy blow to hopes for peace
    Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen knocked on door in a farm in Patikul, Mindanao, and opened fire after asking residents if they were Christian. Six people are confirmed dead, including a nine-month baby girl, and five others are seriously wounded.

    11/01/2010 PHILIPPINES
    Mindanao: a grenade explodes in front of Jolo Cathedral, no injuries
    The blast took place yesterday morning shortly before mass. Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels main suspects of the attack. In recent months, two grenades have exploded near the cathedral. The last attack dates to 31 December. Sulu Bishops says Church will not close its mission in Jolo.

    20/11/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Mindanao, more than 46,000 displaced in war between army and MILF
    According to the Philippine National Red Cross, 11,734 families have had to abandon their homes and property, destroyed in fighting between the army and rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The displaced are being welcomed in refugee camps, while reconstruction work begins. In Jolo, a bishops-ulemas summit despite threats from Abu Sayyaf.

    14/04/2010 PHILIPPINES
    Basilan: death toll from attack carried out by Abu Sayyaf rebels rises to 15 dead
    Police say extremists used army uniforms to pass unnoticed and plant the bombs that yesterday hit the cathedral of Saint Isabel and the building of the Ministry of Education. Among the victims of gun battles between soldiers and rebels also the brother of one of the leaders of the terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. Basilan bishop urges people to pray for peace and asks for protection of military forces.



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