Filipino bishop thankful for Muslim solidarity

Muslim residents of the city of Baguio offer to guard Christian churches against terrorist threats
Filipino bishop thankful for Muslim solidarity

A group of Muslims in the northern Philippine province of Pangasinan show their support for the Catholic faithful during the celebration of Sunday Mass on Aug. 11. (Photo by Jojo Rinoza)

A Catholic bishop in the northern Philippines has expressed his gratitude to Muslim residents who offered to guard churches following reported terrorist threats on Christian places of worship.

On Aug. 11, eve of the Islamic feast of Eid’l Adha, Muslim residents of Baguio visited the city’s Catholic church to offer their support to various sectors fighting terrorist threats.

The move came amid reports of alleged terror threats and plans to bomb “crusade churches” by members of the so-called Islamic State (IS) network.

Bishop Victor Bendico of Baguio said the show of support by Muslims was “a sign of unity being expressed” against terrorism.

”I hope that the Muslim community and the people of Baguio will live harmoniously,” said the prelate, adding that everyone should be “vigilant and watchful.”

”We have to be very careful,” he said.

In Nueva Segovia Archdiocese, also in the northern Philippines, Archbishop Marlo Peralta called on authorities to verify the reported terrorist threats.

”It’s their duty to verify if there is truth [to the threats] and for them to secure churches,” said the prelate.

He also called on the faithful to be vigilant and inform authorities about suspicious individuals and activities in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Peralta, however, said the threats might just be the work of some “bad elements who want to create fear among our people.”

”If they can sow panic or fear among the people then they can do what they want because fear is also power,” he said.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened in Laoag Diocese following the reported terror threat.

”The police force is visible in the vicinity of our churches to secure our people,” said Bishop Renato Pine Mayugba.

Earlier, the Philippine military’s Northern Luzon Command issued a memorandum to subordinate units to verify a purported plan by the Islamic State to attack “crusader churches.”

In an Aug. 2 “alert memo,” Col. Glenn Celebrano, the command’s intelligence officer, said they had received information that a “crusader city with business centers and crusader churches are being targeted for terror attack.”

”Crusader cities” is the term used by the Islamic State in describing target areas to fuel what they call the “Bandar Crusade” or the war between Muslims and Christians.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the information was still “being validated” and he advised the public “to remain calm and continue with their daily and routine activities.”

Arevalo said the military and other security agencies were attending to the report. “They are working tirelessly as they aspire to prevent it or similar threats from happening,” he said.

The terror alert came nearly seven months after the bombing of a Catholic cathedral in the southern province of Sulu on Jan. 27.

The twin blasts, carried out by IS-inspired fighters, left 22 people dead and more than 100 injured.

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