Inter-religious group calls for solidarity amid terror attacks  

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Christian and Muslim leaders here came together in time for the World Interfaith Harmony Week to denounce the recent bombings in some parts of Mindanao, as they called on all sectors to unite in the face of violence that many feared aims to sow sectarian discord.

During an interfaith prayer rally held at the Divisoria area on Saturday morning, religious and secular leaders made statements condemning the double bomb attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu on January 27, and the bombing of the Masjid Kamahardikaan in Zamboanga City on January 30.

The activity was organized by the Interfaith Forum for Peace, Harmony, and Solidarity composed of officials of different Christian denominations and Islamic institutions.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is observed every February 1 to 7.

At least 22 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured in the Jolo explosions, while the attack in Zamboanga claimed the lives of two individuals and wounded three persons.

Msgr. Rey Monsanto, a Roman Catholic priest, said there was a sense of fear among the church’s clergy the recent attacks would spark more conflict.

“We were apprehensive that Christians and Muslims will begin blaming each other and this will escalate into a religious war, which will then lead to the death of what we have worked for – peace and unity in Mindanao,” Monsanto said.

If this happens, he said, those who spread terrorism that use religion as their excuse to wage war will win.

However, Monsanto said, “Terrorism has no religion. They will use religion for their evil work. We are praying that what happened will not result in blaming each other and that terrorism will be eliminated.”

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma expressed the same view saying that the bombings may “disturb the peace process that started with the ratification of the (Bangsamoro Organic Law).”

The attacks occurred just days after the voters in the core territories of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) took part in the plebiscite that would ratify Republic Act No. 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), last January 21.

“I am urging you that we must not follow the path to violence but to the path of peace for all,” Ledesma said.

Quoting an official statement of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), “any act of violence against one citizen of the State is an act of violence against the whole nation, regardless of religion, despite political affiliations.”

“These bombings had killed and injured Filipinos, and the masterminds behind these acts have caused harm to the entire nation in a divisive effort to further widen the gap between Muslims and Christians,” said Abdulnasser Masorong, NCMF 10 (Northern Mindanao) director.

He said “neither religion condones acts, which cause harm and death to those who want peace, to those who came to worship God. Let us just take it as what it is, criminal acts against the Republic of the Philippines.”

Alec Mohammad, an official of the United Ulama 10 based in this city, said the attacks were “an act of cowardice, a malicious intent to undermine and strain the long and harmonious relationship and bond (among) Muslims, Christians and Lumad.”

Mohammad said the violence “will not break the spirit of the long-standing relationship” among Mindanao’s peoples. –PNA

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