AFTER a bomb attack on a cathedral in the Philippines, on Sunday, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, said: “The enemies of the state have boldly challenged the capability of the government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region. The armed forces of the Philippines will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals.”
The RC Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the southern city of Jolo, was struck twice by bombs after a morning mass on Sunday. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 20 dead and more than 80 people wounded.
After the attack, the country’s Defence Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said: “I have directed our troops to heighten their alert level, secure all places of worship and public places at once, and initiate proactive security measures to thwart hostile plans.”
On Wednesday, two Islamic teachers were killed after a grenade attack on on the Kamardikaan mosque in the city of Zamboanga, on the island of Mindanao, adding to rising tensions.
Five decades of separatist rebellion have caused more than 120,000 deaths in the region. The governor of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, Mujiv Hataman, said: “This bomb attack was done in a place of peace and worship, and it comes at a time when we are preparing for another stage of the peace process in Mindanao.”
The Pope condemned the attack. In a message posted on Twitter on Sunday, Pope Francis said that he was praying that God would “convert the hearts of the violent and grant the inhabitants of that region a peaceful coexistence”.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Romulo Valles, expressed his solidarity with the churchgoers. He said: “As we begin a new phase in the peace process with the creation of the BARMM, we ask our Christian brethren to join hands with all peace-loving Muslim and Indigenous People communities in the advocacy against violent extremism.
“May all our religions of peace guide us in our quest for a brighter future for the peoples of Mindanao.”
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, in a message on Twitter, wrote: “Praying for all those affected, and for peace in this divided region.”