THERE was no festive let-up this year in the terror campaign waged by Islamist extremists in the autonomous Muslim region of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.
A bomb exploded during mass on Christmas morning at a Roman Catholic church in Jolo, Mindanao, seriously injuring four people. Nine others were hurt. The structure of the church was severely damaged.
The police have blamed the Islamist group Abu Sayyef, which seeks a separate Filipino Muslim state in south-west Mindanao for the country’s Muslim population of four million — five per cent of the total population of 90 million. Abu Sayyef has a record of attacking isolated Christian communities, as well as murders, decapitations, kidnappings, and the terrorising of Christian farmers (News, 5 March 2010).
The RC Bishop of Isabela, the Most Revd Martin Jumoad, has appealed to President Aquino to send extra troops to protect the region’s Christian minority.
In his St Stephen’s Day address at the Vatican, Pope Benedict, referring to the previous day’s attack, asked for prayers for “the long-suffering Christian people of Mindanao, whose plight has for so long been ignored by those from whom they are entitled to expect better”.