TWIN EXPLOSIONS IN PHILIPPINES’ RESTIVE SOUTHERN REGION
On Monday 21 August, at least 15 people were killed, and several more wounded, in two bomb explosions in the southern Philippine town of Jolo. The first explosion occurred around noon, and as security forces were securing the area, a second bomb exploded. Eight members of security forces, six civilians, and the bomber were killed in the second explosion. The explosions were not far from the location of a previous attack on a Catholic church that killed more than 20 people in 2019. Monday’s attack was the sixth suicide bombing in the Philippines since 2017 – a rare form of attack in the country. There has yet to be a claim of responsibility. Sulu, the province in which the attacks took place, is the stronghold of Islamic State (IS) group, Abu Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf has been fighting for independence in the southern region of the islands, claiming the territory is their ancestral homeland. Jolo is one of many Muslim-majority islands in the southwest of the Catholic-majority Philippines.
From a Christian perspective, the Philippines is home to the largest Christian church in Asia, with over 86 million believers. As the only Christian nation in the region, there has been an increased effort by Islamic extremist groups to take territory in the island chain. With the increasing number of attacks claimed by Islamist groups in the past few years, Efraim Tendero, the general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance and former national director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches said in a statement: “What they [terrorist groups] want to do is pit Muslims and Christians against each other. But you can see that the moderate Muslim community is peace-loving. These attacks come from a group that is trying to sow more terror.” On 3 July 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, giving the government more power to deem groups or individuals that “intend to cause death, injury, or property damage or use of weapons of mass destruction to cause fear or intimidate the government” as terrorists, in hopes of being able to better prevent further attacks.
Pray with us for the following:
- For continued and successful efforts towards peace between people groups
- For more opportunities for ministry to non-believers during a time of uncertainty and fear
- For the Church to be a beacon of hope and Christians to be ambassadors of peace