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Mindanao Dec 2023
World News

Fear and anger in the wake of Philippine church bombing

by Ros Mayfield

Feelings of fear and anger have been reported among members of a Christian community in the Philippines after an explosion ripped through a service where hundreds had gathered at the start of the Christmas season.

Four worshippers were killed and around 50 wounded when Islamic extremists detonated a bomb at a gymnasium at the University of Mindanao on the first Sunday of Advent in Marawi Diocese, southern Philippines.

While churches are commonplace across most of the rest of the Philippines, according to the Catholic charity for the persecuted church, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in the predominantly Muslim Mindanao region in the south of the country, Christians make up only two per cent of the population.

Missionary priest Father Sebastiano D’Ambra visited the scene and relayed the situation to the charity: “What was meant to be a week full of positive peace-building moments has become a time of terror.”

He told them there are concerns that the attack was spark an exodus of the few Catholic families who live there: “Many families have already urged their children to return to their homelands because of the fear that the Christians are feeling.”

Father D’Ambra has been supporting interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the Philippines since 1984, and says the violence shows that the nearly 40 years of work is as important as ever.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said in a statement: “We pray for the eternal repose of those who have died, and for the healing of those who have been injured.

“We unite ourselves spiritually with their families and draw strength and consolation from our faith in Christ who will ‘restore all things to himself, making peace by the blood of his cross’.”

Pope Francis also referenced the attack during the Angelus prayer at the Vatican: “I wish to assure my prayer for the victims of the attack that occurred this morning in the Philippines, where a bomb exploded during Mass.

“I am close to the families and the people of Mindanao, who have already suffered so much.”


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