Cathedral Bombing in the Philippines

Michael Kinsella gives his reaction to the Philippines bombing and to the latest steps to free Asia Bibi from jail.

reports below thanks to ACN UK

Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines

Two bombs exploded on 27th January 2019 during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, southern Philippines, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, according to local police.

In a message to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Romeo Saniel, Apostolic Administrator of Jolo, said:

“Please pray for the victims of Mount Carmel Cathedral bombing in Jolo. No words can describe the sorrow and pain that we feel these days. May they be given justice in God’s time. I know that the friends of the victims – both Muslims and Christians – are mourning and in deep sorrow today.  “Pray also pray for the families of our young soldiers who died while securing the cathedral.”

Fr Saniel added: “Most of those who died were our regular Sunday 8am Mass-goers.”

A Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ statement on the bombings also expressed condolences to the families of the civilians and soldiers who were killed.

According to local Church sources, the first blast went off at 08.45am local time (00.45 GMT), while Mass was being said.

As soldiers responded to the incident, a second explosion took place in the car park, where Mass-goers had gathered following the first detonation.

Initial reports suggest the second bomb was hidden inside the tool box of a motorcycle.

Following an examination of the bomb sites earlier today (Monday, 28th January), police chief Oscar Albayalde said that the devices could have been set off by a mobile phone.

Deash (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that CCTV footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible.

Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to Daesh.

Since 2000, there have been at least 10 attacks on or near the cathedral, many of which Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for.

The cathedral attack came within a week of a referendum in which the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao voted for greater autonomy.

Asia Bibi Supreme Court decision could be good news for all blasphemy victims

By refusing to back down in its decision to acquit Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has sent out a signal to courts across the country to defy the threat of extremists and defend all those – including many Christians – falsely accused of blasphemy.

So says Father Emmanuel ‘Mani’ Yousaf, National Director of the Church-run National Commission for Justice and Peace, which provides legal and para-legal aid for blasphemy victims.

“God bless the judges. They had received threats and yet they knew that Asia Bibi was falsely accused and were strong enough to say so.”

Father Yousaf said the Supreme Court’s refusal on Tuesday (29th January) to reject a challenge into last October’s acquittal of Asia Bibi was a “great day for justice”, with the potential for impact across Pakistan’s legal system.

Speaking from Pakistan in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which helps persecuted Christians, Fr Yousaf said: “The decision by the Supreme Court means that the lower courts should have the courage now to think twice about handing down the death sentence.”

In Pakistan, blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Mohammed is punishable by death – the sentence farm labourer Asia Bibi received in 2010 – and Catholic research shows 187 other live cases involving other Christians.

Fr Yousaf said many lower courts come under pressure from extremist mobs to ignore the evidence and pass down harsh sentences of death or life imprisonment.

He said: “Everyone has been so scared of the extremists.”

Hailing Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision, Fr Yousaf praised the three judges on the bench for ignoring threats from extremists determined that Asia Bibi’s death sentence be upheld.

He said: “God bless the judges. They had received threats and yet they knew that Asia Bibi was falsely accused and were strong enough to say so.”

Fr Yousaf, parish priest of St Anthony’s Church in Lahore, said his community and many other Christians were “overjoyed” about the news.

He said many Muslims in Pakistan were rejoicing too, with many expressing concern about the influence of extremists, especially concerning the rule of law.

“It is wonderful to see Pakistan stand up for justice.”      

Highlighting Asia Bibi’s long period in custody since 2009, Fr Yousaf said: “Who will give her back 10 long years? It is a long time.”

But he added: “Every one of us is so happy for her. Especially when the attention of the world is focused on Pakistan, it is wonderful to see the country stand up for justice.”

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Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need is a registered charity dedicated to the support of persecuted and poverty-stricken Christians.

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