Some 300 members of an armed Christian group, the Red God Soldiers, have vowed to fight Muslim rebels in self-defence. “If government troops can defend civilians whether they are Muslims or Christians, then I think it will not come to this,” said Mgr Lampon. For PIME missionary, things can “escalate in the future.”
Manila (AsiaNews) – Some Christians have started to arm themselves against extremists in Southern Philippines. However, as Christians, "we must say that this is not the right way to respond to violence. We must not go down this road," said Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME missionary in the Philippines.
On the website of the Philippine Bishops Conference (CBCP), Bishop Angelito Lampon, of the Vicariate of Jolo, is quoted as saying that some Christians, out of frustration and fear, appear to be ready to take up arms following provocations by some Muslim groups. They have taken the name ‘Red God Soldiers’.
In an apparent show of force, around 300 members of the group on Tuesday showed off their firearms, and vowed to drive Moro rebels from their communities.
The group burnt a flag of the Islamic State group and condemned recent attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group that split away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Since 24 December, BIFF members have attacked some villages in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, killing nine farmers working in their rice plantations.
“This is a kind of desperate attempt by these Christians who are being attacked now and then by these armed groups,” Mgr Lampon said.
The Red God Soldiers said they are ready to fight BIFF for the sake of their families, communities, and in the name of self-defence, the prelate explained.
Hopefully, “If the government troops can defend civilians whether they are Muslims or Christians, then I think it will not come to this,” added Lampon.
Fortunately, most Christians “are under control,” Fr D’Ambra noted. “They know that violence is not the Christian way. However, some groups can get out of hand. This is not new; the same thing happened in the 1970s, but it eventually stopped."
For the missionary, this is not only a religious conflict. "It is true that Christian villages were attacked at Christmas, but for a variety of reasons: land and power. Some groups want to sow confusion before the elections in May.
"We have not had any major incidents lately,” Fr D'Ambra said. “In my opinion, however, violence will escalate in the future. The situation in Mindanao is not very good, even though it is under control for now.”
“In addition to the more radical, ISIS-inspired groups like BIFF, there are those who are unhappy with the agreements between Muslim rebels and the government. The situation will become more difficult in the coming months. "
"Currently,” the clergyman said, “all the bishops of the Philippines are in Cebu for the bishops' conference (which meets twice a year) and for the Eucharistic Congress.