ZAMBOANGA CITY, August 4, 2016—Italian Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement (SDM) has called the attention of local and national government officials to pacify the brewing tension between Christians and Muslims in Jolo.
D’Ambra decried the worsening persecution of Christians in Jolo, Sulu, saying that, “the beautiful relationship among Christians and Muslims in Jolo is no longer a reality there. Many Christian Chinese have left and many other Christians are planning to leave if they have a chance.”
“Many live now in fear in Jolo and this is what the bad elements, who claim to (perpetuate violence) in the name of Islam, like. The Christians are afraid to talk, afraid also to go to the church even if there are military watching the cathedral in the center of the city,” he said, following the recent murder of a Christian in Jolo and the rumored plan to neutralize or kidnap several others.
D’Ambra also expressed alarm as rebels find reasons to also kill Muslims they considered as “kafir” (infidel).
“The situation is also alarming for good Muslims because today the bad elements find reasons to kill also the Muslims, saying that some are “kafir” (infidel) like the other Christians. They forget the great tradition of Islam to respect Christians as people of the book,” the priest added.
Despite the brewing tension in Jolo, D’Ambra said no solution has been implemented so far except for finger-pointing among authorities.
“Why are the national and local leaders of different sectors in authority silent? And why do those who have power not act and find proper solutions?
“We hear some voices, even among the military, who complain and point the finger in the right direction, but we do not see yet any relevant solutions,” he said.
To help remedy the situation, D’Ambra appealed to Christians and Muslims alike to work together to restore harmony across the island.
“I appeal to all, especially to Muslim leaders, who are part of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, as part of the Inter faith Council of leaders, those who have attended the different courses of dialogue and peace promoted by Silsilah, those who received our Silsilah Calendar, those who have been trained by Silsilah as Madaris Gurus for dialogue and peace, those youths who have been part of the SilPeace program of Silsilah and other respected leaders. This appeal is for all because we care for all in Jolo. Like many of you, we dream a future peace in Jolo, where all are respected and free to pray following one’s religion,” he said.
D’Ambra also called on Muslim tribal leaders in Jolo to take action.
“I have been in Mindanao for forty years and I know that the Tausugs of Jolo are courageous. I appeal to the courage and goodness of the people of Jolo before it will be too late and the world will accuse you for being silent in the agony of the Christian community of Jolo as well the agony of other Muslims,” he pointed out.
“Sharing this painful reflections and reality about Jolo I am convinced that the situation can improve and Jolo can become again a beautiful place where all can go and live,” D’Ambra added. (Kris Bayos/CBCPNews)