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.)