12/27/2010, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Jolo: Muslim leaders slam Christmas attack

In a statement released to the press, representatives of the Philippines’ ulama urge all Muslims to fight Muslim extremists who use Islam in their own interests. The Christian Community in Jolo (Mindanao) was attacked during Mass at the Sacred Heart Chapel. Eleven people were wounded. Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah are the main suspects.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – A group of Filipino ulama have condemned the attack by Muslim extremists against the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Jolo (Sulu) on Saturday. They urge the authorities to move “heaven and earth” to bring the culprits to justice.

A bomb exploded at 7.15 am during Christmas Mass. The blast blew out the chapel’s roof and wounded 11 people.

No one has yet claim responsibility for the attack, and the authorities are still trying to identify who might be behind it.

Various Islamist groups operate in Sulu Province, including Abu Sayyaf, which is suspected to be connected to al Qaeda and Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah.

In his Sunday address, Benedict XVI mentioned the blood shed in the Philippines on Christmas.

In a press release also issued yesterday, members of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines slammed the attack. The “many kidnapping incidents in different parts of Mindanao are barbaric acts of violence, cruelty, and disrespect and must be condemned,” their statement said.

“If it is true, then let it be known to all that the “brand of Islam” being espoused by the so-called ‘Jama’a Islamia’ and its international and local accomplices has no place in the purity of Islamic teachings. Theirs is to advance their personal political agenda using Islam to get support from innocent and desperate people.”

“We challenge peace-loving Muslims to stand up against those who use Islam for their self-serving interest. And we call on other faith communities to help us Muslims to face squarely these forces of evil not to triumph; as the saying goes, ‘The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’.”

Predominantly Muslim Mindanao has been the scene for the past 40 years of open warfare between the Filipino armed forces and extremist Islamic groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf.

Jolo’s Christian community has been the object of many attacks. The worst occurred on 7 July 2009 when a bomb exploded inside the cathedral, killing six and wounding 40.

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