Jumoad: Protect Christian community in Lantawan

Lantawan, Philippines - A Basilan Bishop is calling the authorities to secure and protect the Christian community of Lantawan town so that the attack last Monday that killed three civilians and injured several others would not be repeated.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, 52, condemned the attack, which he described as a blatant disregard of the church’s observance of the Holy Week.

“We called on the authorities to intensify their security measures and implement the law against lawless elements,” the bishop said.

The second day of Holy Week was marred by violence Monday against the minority Christian community in Basilan, when members of local tribe Yakan initiated an early morning attack, sending residents to run for their safety after three residents of Lantawan were hit by bullets and killed on the spot.

The vicious trend seemed to suggest a systematic campaign against Christians by Islamic militants to further intimidate them, Catholic Church officials said.

On Monday morning, three civilians, Munding Alay, Junifer Agbay and Kadafi Aliudin were killed on the spot while several others including Julasiri Aliudidin, Dinoh Martinez, Graciano Martinez, Rene Parado, Ivan Penaloza, Suaib Angal and Arsi Abdu were wounded and rushed to a nearby Isabela City Hospital for treatment.

The said ambushed was allegedly perpetrated by Yakan Tribe, an ethnic group in Basilan who attack the San Roque Parish, in Lantawan town.

Fr. Arnel Lagman, San Roque parish priest, accused some members of a local tribe Yakan of carrying out the attacks around 6 a.m.

“We are about to start Mass when we heard gunshots and people started running for their safety,” Lagman said.

Yakan tribe refers to the majority of Muslim group in Basilan, an island south of Zamboanga province in Mindanao.

For the Muslim Yakan, the world is divided into two: Dar-ul-Islam, the abode of Islam, and Dar-ul-Harb, the abode of the unbelievers.

Jihad is the holy war waged by Muslims to protect Dar-ul-Islam from foreign invasion and against those who seek to harm their religion, people, and properties.

The priest also said that the victims, all Catholics, were on their way to work when hail of bullets hit them.

Bishop Jumoad said “they should respect us like the way we respect their religious activities.”

“If there’s any problem they should bring it to the proper forum and not through violent means... they should find peaceful means to get their problems resolved,” Jumoad said.

Despite the incident, Jumoad said Holy Week activities in the area would still continue as he called on the authorities to provide protection to Christian assemblies or prevent anti-Christian violence.

Lagman recalled that days prior to the ambush, a grenade from an M-79 grenade launcher exploded meters away from the San Roque Church last Wednesday.

He said that the “outsiders,” as they are tagged by locals, were retaliating for the theft of a number of cows and water buffalos allegedly by Christians in the area.

Lantawan town is a home to over more or less 1, 000 Catholics and over 10, 000 Muslims.