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Latest Cathedral Terror Attack in the Philippines Is a Cowardly Act

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on January 27, 2019 21:59

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Bombing a sacred place during a holy hour of worship is nothing but a cowardly barbaric act. It has no place in a society that seeks peace and religious diversity.

It was supposedly a normal Sunday morning as church-goers worshipped their God and the priest celebrating the Mass. Then it happened. An improvised explosive device exploded inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the town of Jolo, Sulu. As the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines rushed to the site, another bomb exploded near the cathedral's entrance at the parking lot.

According to reports, the twin explosions left at least 20 dead and more than a hundred wounded including civilians and members of the country's armed forces who were the first responders.

The government has an initial suspect: the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG), a local terrorist organization with links to ISIS, which claimed the attack. The group had been involved in kidnappings, bombings, piracy, and terrorism in the area. They'd been creating havoc in the area for decades even before there was ISIS.

While waiting for the result of the full investigation, the intent of the attack is yet to be confirmed, but more likely to terrorize the community and create fear, exploiting the region's political vulnerability.

The town's cathedral has been a target for attacks by bandits, extremists, and terrorists in Mindanao, the country's second-largest main island. The January 27 attack was the latest and the deadliest in the history of the church's bombings. Since 2000 there had been at least 10 attacks -- grenades were thrown and explosive devices detonated near or within the vicinity of the cathedral.

It appears that the cathedral is a convenient target by Islamic extremists and that these attacks have had political undertones. The recent attack coincides with a major change in the region's political landscape as the people ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which seeks to create an autonomous region. It happened less than a week after the voters chose autonomy; Jolo voted no. The blasts rocked the region's volatile political situation. But it is best to refrain from speculation at the moment.

The question remains though, how were the attackers able to enter the cathedral when it was heavily guarded by the military on Sundays? Besides, there was martial law imposed in 27 Mindanao provinces including Sulu since May 23, 2017, and it has been extended until December 31, 2019.

Bombing a sacred place during a holy hour of worship is nothing but a cowardly barbaric act. It has no place in a society that seeks peace and religious diversity. While the government vows to bring the perpetrators to justice, the public should not panic and give the terrorists victory. It is a time for unity and sober reflection on the future of Mindanao and its proud and culturally diverse people.

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on January 27, 2019 21:59

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Source: The Atlantic

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