12/03/2023, 12.43
ECCLESIA IN ASIA
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Bomb at Mass: Advent begins in blood in Marawi

At least four people were killed and dozens injured in a very serious attack against Christians at the university in the Muslim-majority city in Mindanao, which was the scene of five months of war in 2017 after a local Islamist group took control and proclaimed Islamic State. Philippine bishops' president Msgr David: 'Killed while professing their faith. But the Church will go on working for peace'.

Marawi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The beginning of Advent in the Philippines is marked by the blood of a group of Christians struck during the celebration of the Eucharist. In a very serious attack, 4 people were killed and more than 40 injured in an explosion that occurred in the gymnasium of the Mindanao State University of Marawi, where Mass was being celebrated.

Marawi is the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur, one of those included in the Bangsamoro, the autonomous Muslim region officially established in 2019 as a result of the agreements to put an end to the long war with the Muslim militias of Mindanao, the large island in the south of the Philippines where the Islamic presence is strongest.

The attack was immediately attributed to the local Islamist group Daulah Islamiyah-Maute - which does not accept the Bangsamoro solution - which in recent days had seen 11 of its militiamen killed in an operation by the Philippine army. It is likely that the explosion in the gymnasium of MIndanao State University - one of the largest universities in the country - was caused by a grenade or a rudimentary bomb.

With its 200 thousand inhabitants - the vast majority of whom are Muslims - Marawi is a city where the wounds of the five months of war in 2017 remain deep, when the Maute Group, a terrorist group linked to the Islamic State, assumed control.

More than a thousand people, including many civilians, died in the weeks of fighting between the Islamist militias and the Philippine army which only managed to regain control on 23 October 2017. Already on that occasion the local Christian community was directly targeted: the vicar general Fr. Teresimo “Chito” Suganob and numerous parishioners of the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians were taken hostage and were released only after four months.

However, years after those events, the promises to rebuild Marawi have remained largely unfulfilled: in this city there are still tens of thousands of people living in the makeshift shelters set up during the emergency.

In a statement, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the bishop of Kalookan Msgr. Pablo Virgilio David, underlined the concomitance between the attack and the first Sunday of Advent, which the Church celebrates today.

The perpetrators, said the bishop, "chose precisely this occasion to explode a bomb". “Surely the murderers who provoked such a horrendous act of violence also have their loved ones. What would it take to ensure that they see in the families of their victims their own families?" - said David. "This violence should not only be denounced, but also rejected as a way to seek reparation from every peace-loving Filipino."

Recalling that only last Wednesday in many countries around the world Catholics experienced "Red Wednesday", the day that remembers persecuted Christians, Msgr. David adds that these faithful killed during the Mass in Marawi “shed their blood as a libation like the blood of Christ. They professed their faith in the last Mass they attended, especially in the communion of saints, in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the body and in eternal life."

Saying he agrees with the statement of the affected university - which states that "violence has no place in a civil society" - the president of the Philippine bishops reaffirms "the incessant commitment of the Philippine Catholic Church for peace" and solidarity "with our Christian community and with all those who have been affected by this tragedy".

The Archbishop Emeritus of Cotabato, Card., also spoke today about the Marawi massacre. Orlando Quevedo, always at the forefront for the promotion of peace in Mindanao and for this reason member of the Council of Leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

“The massacre, perpetrated on the first Sunday of Advent, a period of hope, and at the beginning of the Week of Peace in Mindanao – comments card. Quevedo - is the most terrible and harmful terrorist crime against innocent believers on a Christian holy day. It is a tragic reenactment of the crazy attack in Jolo Cathedral during Sunday Mass several years ago,” Quevedo said. For this reason he urged the police to identify those responsible for the explosion as soon as possible.

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