Friday, 3 October 2003

Manila (Fides Service) – There are no religious motives behind the bomb blast on 3 October in the early afternoon (local time) at Midsayap mosque near Cotabato on the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines. The reasons are political and care must be taken to avoid the danger of exploitation, so that violence does not involve the religious communities. This is the thought expressed in a conversation with Fides Agency by Jesuit Bishop Mons Antonio Ledesma, Ordinary of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ipil in Mindanao and President of the Episcopal Commission for interreligious Dialogue.
The toll of the attack is two dead and about 30 injured. The explosion of two grenades took place in a mosque in the centre of the town of Midsayap, a city with a strong Catholic community but a significant Muslim presence. A spokesman of local security referred that the attack came during afternoon prayers, but that no one claimed responsibility. According to a first reconstruction, most of the victims are public officials.
“It must be said immediately there are absolutely no Christian groups behind the attack” the Bishop questioned by Fides Service underlined. “It is clear that the reasons are political, at a time in which the resuming of peace talks between the government and Muslim groups is imminent. We do not know who was behind the attack, which intends to block the peace process: But I believe that everyone will want to ensure that this event does not compromise the present effort for reconciliation”.
The Bishop noted that this is not the first time a bomb explodes near a mosque in Mindanao (it happened also in the city of Davao). “On these episodes an investigation is underway and, some say, the army is involved. It is necessary to clarify the situation in Mindanao. To affirm that religions are not a motive for violence in Mindanao we are organising Mindanao Week of Peace at the end of November”.
In the meantime time, Mons Ledesma affirms. “Islam/Christian relations on the island are good, in general there is collaboration between religious leaders, as is testified by the Bishop Ulema Conference which actively supports the process of peace. But Mindanao needs stabilisation, which must come about in small steps, gradually, with the contribution of all”. PA (Fides Service 3/10/2003 EM lines 27 Words: 288)