Filipino Christians fear going to Mass due to threats from Islamist radicals

Filipino Christians are afraid to go to Mass because of perceived threats from Islamist radicals.

“Before, the Philippines was a dream place for inter religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims … but now people are frightened even to go to Mass”, said Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, an Italian missionary in Italian missionary living in Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

D’Ambra has been living in the Philippines for 40 years and works for dialogue and peace between Christians and Muslims.

He is the founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City in Mindanao. Silsilah is an Arabic word which means “chain” or “link.”

He said the past years have changed the landscape in Mindanao.

“Before, the Philippines was a dream place for interreligious dialogue; there was complete harmony. But now the situation has changed completely,” he said.

He added, “The threats from the Islamists are constant in the south of the country, above all on the island of Jolo. Kidnappings, violence, persecutions… only recently they murdered a Christian.”

The priest explained that behind the situation are “geopolitical and military interests,” that result in “a very complex scenario.”

D’Ambra said for decades they have lived in a spirit of true brotherhood between the religions. But now a different form of Islam has emerged.

“Previously, we were dealing with a traditional form of Islam, but now everything has changed; the violent tendencies have grown, and every time they get stronger,” he revealed.

He has been calling on Islamic leaders in the Philippines not to act “as if nothing were happening” but to denounce the dangerous situation.

Instead, the leaders “remain with arms folded; they are afraid of reprisals and choose to remain silent.”




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