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    » 12/15/2008, 00.00

    PHILIPPINES

    Gun culture reaching young Catholics in Basilan

    Santosh Digal

    Bishop Jumoad denounces the trend, expresses apprehension about the situation. Young men are in fact taking up arms to defend themselves as a result of the growing violence between the army and MILF rebels. Villagers are fleeing their homes fearful of new attacks.
    Manila (AsiaNews) – Young Catholics are taking up arms on Basilan Island, near Mindanao, to defend themselves after violence between soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels flared up earlier this month, said Bishop Martin Jumoad, head of the Territorial Prelature of Isabela, who also expressed his apprehension for the return of “the culture of (the) gun” to Basilan.

    “Children as young as 15 [years old] are now arming themselves and it’s painful for me because these children are Catholics,” the bishop said, citing reports from Fr Pepe Ligason, parish priest in Maluso.

    The prelate said that whilst teenagers are arming themselves against perceived enemies, residents from the villages of Canas, Fallih, Mahayahay and Cabcaban which are part of Maluso parish have started to evacuate.

    “Residents are abandoning their houses, evacuating to safer areas,” the prelate said, adding that both taking up arms and evacuation are the result of the residents’ lack of trust in authorities. In fact “the reason is that security forces could no longer protect the people,” he said.

    Given the situation Bishop Jumoad said he sought co-ordination with the police to cope with the emergency and contacted other religious organizations to promote a dialogue with the Marines.

    Since 28 November clashes between Filipino marines and MILF rebels have left 11 people dead, including three civilians.

    The new wave of violence began when the military launched operations against Abu Sayyaf terrorists suspected in the abduction of Merlie Mendoza and Esperancita Hupida, two NGO volunteers seized by an armed group on 15 September on Basilan Island.

    Mannar Saliddin, head of Jaga (Watch) Human Rights, has called on the military to stop the bloody war which is affecting the civilian population the most.

    But as much as he wants peace in the province, the bishop of Basilan said that stopping military operations now would again allow lawless elements to regroup and continue their criminal activities.

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    See also

    03/11/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Woman volunteer released in Basilan, fate of another still uncertain
    Fr Angel Calvo is relieved that Esperancita Hupida was released but is still concerned about the fate of Merlie Mendoza who is still in the kidnappers’ hands. MILF sources suggest that a ransom was paid, blame the abduction on Abu Sayyaf-affiliated armed gangs. Basilan bishop says no to arming priests and nuns.

    16/01/2009 PHILIPPINES
    MILF condemns humanitarian workers abduction as no one claims responsibility
    The Moro Islamic Liberation Front offers to help in getting the release of the kidnap victims. Abu Sayyaf has not claimed responsibility for the action and local sources exclude politics or religion were involved. Police is investigating the possible involvement of an employee working at a prison the three workers had just visited.

    20/10/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Support police who defend the law, Basilan archbishop says
    The prelate urges people to work with security forces upholding law and order in the province against attacks by armed gangs and Abu Sayyaf Islamic fundamentalists. The abduction of a priest is thwarted last Saturday. Mystery still hovers over the fate of two kidnapped aid workers.

    22/09/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Christians and Muslims rebuilding coexistence after Mindanao clashes
    In the village of Muntay, Christians and Muslims offer each mutual assistance to protect themselves from the fighting between army, Muslim rebels and armed Christian groups. They want to rebuild their life together against the danger that hatred might triumph.

    14/08/2007 PHILIPPINES
    Clashes in the south, Church helping the displaced
    President Arroyo announces peace talks with MILF rebels but launches a major military offensive against other rebel groups. Bishop of Jolo says Church ready to help the population.



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