PHILIPPINES – Terrorists desecrate Eucharist and destroy Catholic chapel
Members of a terrorist group destroyed a Catholic chapel during a nine-hour long attack on the town of Malagakit in southern Philippines. The militants used hammers to destroy religious icons and vital fixtures. They also desecrated consecrated hosts.
The 21 June attack was reportedly carried out by about 300 gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, known as BIFF, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. In the siege they also destroyed a school and robbed houses and stores at gunpoint, forcing hundreds of residents to flee. Residents were caught in a fire-fight between BIFF and government forces, according to Realan Mamon, the police chief of Pigkawayan town, where Malagakit is located. Mamon also had a report that gunmen were occupying a school, although it wasn’t immediately apparent if people were trapped inside by the fighting or taken hostage.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said that he condemns “in the strongest terms possible the wicked desecration of the Catholic Chapel of Malagakit in the parish of Pigcawayan…”
“If the BIFF wants to have an image as a ‘respecter’ of all religions, it must punish its members who perpetrated the odious desecration in Malagakit and educate all its members in strictly respecting other religions,” he continued. The Cardinal urged parishioners to restore the damaged chapel and asked everyone in the Archdiocese to pray for peace and harmony among all believers of all religions.
Some leaders of the town, such as Salvador Almonia Jr., a chairman of Malagakit, thought that the attack on the chapel was intended to create division between the town’s buy cheap ativan Catholics and Muslims, who currently live together peacefully. “That was meant to sow anger among us. We will not respond the way the BIFF want us to respond to that despicable act,” he said.
The vice governor of North Cotabato, Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva, urged Muslim and Christian residents to disregard attempts to instigate religious division, saying: “Let us be sober and continue with the friendship and solidarity that we have. We just have to be vigilant and we need to help each other prevent a repeat of the incident.”
The latest attack follows the attack on the city of Marawi on Mindanao by Islamist militants from the Maute group, also affiliated to Islamic State, who have been locked in an urban battle with government troops for several weeks. Officials now believe that the militants had planned to carve out an enclave of their own in the southern Philippines after the emergence of a video showing their leaders in a secret strategy meeting. The footage found on a mobile phone showed a group of men in a room discussing how they would take hostages from a school, seal off roads and capture a highway into the lakeside town.
“There was indeed a bigger plan and it was supposed to wreak more havoc,” military spokesman Restituto Padilla told a news conference after the video became public.
The battle for Marawi has raised concern that Islamic State, which has lost its hold in Syria and Iraq, is now building a regional base on the Philippine island of Mindanao that could also pose a threat to neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.