The Archbishop of Cotabato, in the heart of the predominantly Muslim Mindanao, condemns the actions of Abu Sayyaf, calling its members “practical atheists” who have “inadequate knowledge” of their own religion. Many Christians also “do not know the Bible very well”. They say they know “Christ and his teachings” but show “a stark dichotomy between belief and practice”.
Assisi (AsiaNews/CBCP) – Card Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato told religious leaders gathered in Assisi (Italy) for a meeting titled ‘Thirst for Peace’ that Abu Sayyaf bandits are “practical atheists.”
Saying that one cannot wage war in the name of God, he said the terroristic activities of the violent jihadist group in southern Philippines manifests a “denial of God”.
The prelate, a well-known advocate of peace between rebel Islamic groups and the Filipino government, sought to emphasise, however, another aspect, namely Abu Sayyaf’s “inadequate knowledge of the Qur’an”. Another is its “selective knowledge and understanding” of the Holy Book to justify what is not justifiable.
The “same is true also for many Christians” who “do not know the Bible very well,” he noted. “While believing in Christ and his teachings,” they show “a stark dichotomy between belief and practice.”
“This is one of the roots of violence and the lack of peace in Mindanao. What we need is a new evangelisation in order to respond to this problem."
The cardinal then called on religious leaders to learn from Pope Francis who refused to identify Islam and any religion with terrorism and his belief that dialogue is the only path to peace.
“Pope Francis has spoken of extremists in various religions. We should not identify extremism with religion itself,” said Cardinal Quevedo.
That is why "we must not doubt of those leaders and those Muslims who continue to condemn sincerely Islamic extremism.”
“For the churches and different religious faiths, the call is for both intra-religious and inter-religious dialogue so that religious beliefs are not distorted and God’s name is not invoked for the sake of violence,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf is the smallest of Muslim movements fighting for the independence of southern Philippines; however, it is the most dangerous and violent. It is most active in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu (whose capital is Jolo, a jihadi stronghold).
The Mindanao Muslim Autonomous Region comprises five provinces (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) in the southern part of the country. It has its own government, based in Cotabato City.