Filipino Catholic bishops defiant in the face of Islamic threat

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines issued a statement in response to the abhorrent beheading of American journalist, James Foley, by the Islamic State. The bishops condemned the Islamic group who, like other Muslim terrorists,  “who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God."
In an August 28 statement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines stated, "... those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!"
"In the Philippines, we will do our part," wrote Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, "to counter the defacement of religion... with love for each other, bearing each other's burdens, ever forgiving and humbly asking to be forgiven, respecting the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief."
Earlier this month, Pope Francis wrote a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which he urged "the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway. ... through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities." This followed murder and dispossession of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, especially. 
The Philippines have also experienced Muslim-inspired violence. The so-called Moros, Filipino Muslims, have long contended for power in the largely Christian archipelago. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for instance, had been in a decades-long war with the authorities in Manila, who took recourse to U.S. military advisors to quell the rebellion especially in Mindanao, a region rich in gold. In May 2014, after nearly 40 years of violent strife, MILF signed a peace accord with the central government. 
Like the Islamic State, MILF utilized beheadings as a terror tactic. In 2007, for instance, MILF combatants beheaded 11 out of 14 Marines captured in fighting in Basilan
Another group of Muslim marauders, known as Abu Sayyaf, is known for its decades-long series of abductions, murders, rape and sexual assault of children. It remains active in the Philippines and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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