The PIME missionary, who heads the Silsilah group for interreligious dialogue, calls on the authorities to “find proper solutions" to stop “the agony of the Christian community". A few days ago, a man was killed and 20 others were threatened with death by fundamentalists. Moderate Muslims, who are also at risk, ought not to be “silent witnesses” to this persecution.
Jolo (AsiaNews/Silsilah) – Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, president of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and a PIME missionary for over 40 years in Mindanao (southern Philippines), has issued an appeal "to stop killing Christians in Jolo".
The clergyman points to the situation of fear and danger felt by Christians in the aforementioned city in Sulu province, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf jihadist group.
“A Christian was killed in Jolo a few days ago,” Fr D’Ambra says. A “a reliable source told me that 20 Christians have been targeted to be killed or kidnapped soon. In the midst of so many good Muslim leaders and friends of Jolo the Christian community is suffering a form of persecution from those who are guided by bad elements who claim to do it in the name of Islam.”
Founded 30 years ago by Fr D'Ambra, the Silsilah Forum is a movement for dialogue and peace between Muslims and Christians. It still follows many interfaith groups in Mindanao, a region that is home to a large Muslim community, and a hideout for many fundamentalists and separatists.
“Why are the national and local leaders of different sectors in authority silent? And why do those who have power not act and find proper solutions?” the clergyman asks.
Unfortunately, “The past beautiful relationship among Christians and Muslims in Jolo is no longer a reality there. Many Christian Chinese have left and many other Christians are planning to leave if they have a chance."
He makes “appeal to all, especially to you Muslim leaders, who are part of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement as part of the Interfaith Council of leaders (IFCL)”.
“Many live now in fear in Jolo and this is what the bad elements like. The Christians are afraid to talk, afraid also to go to the church even if there are military watching the cathedral in the center of the city. A church that was a pride of the Muslims in the past and a sign of Muslim- Christian dialogue before, but now no more for many who follow a more ‘divisive’ Islam.”
“I have been in Mindanao for forty years and I know that the tausugs of Jolo are courageous. I appeal to the courage and goodness of the people of Jolo before it will be too late and the world will accuse you for being silent in the agony of the Christian community of Jolo as well the agony of other Muslims. Indeed, the situation is also alarming for good Muslims because today the bad elements find reasons to kill also the Muslims saying that some are kafir (infidel) like the other Christians.”