COTABATO CITY – A cardinal from Mindanao has condemned the Oct. 9 desecration of a chapel in Barangay Labo-Labo, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, the second attack on a Catholic place of worship by unidentified men in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces this year.
In a statement, His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, DD, grieved on how unidentified men set ablaze the chapel and “maliciously” destroyed religious statues.
“This criminal act is an abhorrent desecration of a place of Catholic worship,” Quevedo, the country’s second cardinal, said.
The Shariff Aguak Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said the fire occurred at around 9 p.m. on Nov. 9 inside the chapel located few meters from the national highway.
Moro residents nearby helped put off the fire that damaged the San Isidro de Labrador chapel.
“Has the ISIS ideology of destructive religious hatred and intolerance penetrated once peaceful rural area?” he asked.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but arson investigators are looking at the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that the government forces blamed for similar attack on a religious site in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato in June this year.
Quevedo said the destruction of the statues is “gravely disrespectful” of Catholic beliefs.
“Such a crime is most disturbing and provocative,” Quevedo said as he hopes the incident would not affect the “harmonious” relationship between Muslims and Christians in the area.
The prelate also urged the public, government officials, and the archdiocesan partners in the Bangsamoro peace process to help security forces in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“I urge our fellow citizens, government officials and partners in the Bangsamoro peace process to help our security forces to ferret out the individual or group responsible for this sacrilegious crime,” he said.
He called on religious leaders to condemn such abuses and “prevent religious bigotry, hostility and conflict”.
“I enjoin our Catholic faithful, laity, religious sisters and brothers and our priests to be always alert to the ongoing threats of violent extremism. “Be calm. Despite provocation, follow the Lord’s injunction of peace and not revenge,” he said.