Calls mount for Muslims, Christians to close ranks amid MSU bomb attack
DAVAO CITY — Calls are mounting for Christians and Muslims to stand together amid the fallout from the bomb attack while a Sunday Mass was being celebrated at the Mindanao State University (MSU) on Dec. 3.
The attack, which was claimed to have been done by local affiliates of the Islamic State (IS), killed four people and injured 50 others.
It has led to worries by many families about the security of their children on campus and has threatened to reopen old wounds as the bombing was timed on the first Sunday of Advent, an important date in the Christian calendar. Up to 1,000 students fled the campus immediately after the bombing due to security concerns.
Mahir Gustaham, chair of the United Imam in the Philippines in the Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi area, appealed for solidarity among all religions “because targeting innocent civilians contradicts Islamic laws” as well as with the others.
In times like this, according to Gustaham, “we need to strengthen the ties with different faith communities.”
“At no other time is Muslim-Christianity solidarity significantly needed than at this time when we are dealing with the impact of the brutality,” said Guiamel Alim, chair of the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society.
The military on Friday announced that an accomplice of the two suspects in the bombing was arrested on Wednesday.
Col. Xerxes Trinidad, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Jafar Gamo Sultan, alias “Jaf” or “Kuro,” was arrested in Barangay Dulay Proper in Marawi, some 10 kilometers away from MSU.
Maj. Gen. Gabriel C. Viray III, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, described Sultan’s arrest as “a pivotal development” in their pursuit of justice for the victims of the bombing.
Viray told the Inquirer that Sultan, 35, was “a key accomplice” of a certain “Omar” who allegedly planted the improvised bomb in the row of monobloc chairs inside the Mohammad Ali B. Dimaporo Gymnasium before the Mass started.
Omar, however, was not among the names or aliases of the two suspects revealed by the Philippine National Police on Wednesday. The PNP did not respond when asked to clarify the different identity of one of the suspects.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame on Wednesday, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo identified the suspects as Kadapi Mimbesa and Arsani Membisa, both members of the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute Group, a local affiliate of IS.
Muslim leaders were quick to condemn the bombing and offered sympathies to the victims.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra appealed to Muslims and Christians to stand together amid the terrorist attack which, he said, is intended to drive a wedge between the two faith communities.
“Our city has long been a symbol of peaceful coexistence and harmony, and we will not allow these acts of violence to overshadow our shared commitment to peace and unity,” Gandamra said.
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim said the “atrocious and cowardly act” was also meant to “sow fear and discord among our people.”
“In this moment of grief and shock, let us come together as a community, embracing one another with compassion and solidarity,” Ebrahim said.
The BARMM has provided financial aid to all those who died or who were wounded in the blast, facilitated through the Ministry of Social Services and Development.
“To the families of those whose lives were lost in this senseless act of violence and terrorism, please accept our deepest condolences and sympathies. We will make sure justice will be served,” said Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr.
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma said the tragedy would not diminish their commitment to “continuing dialogue” and in “working for peace and development in Mindanao.”
Senators on Friday urged authorities to conduct a full-blown probe of the MSU bombing and arrest the remaining suspects and the mastermind. —WITH REPORTS FROM EDWIN O. FERNANDEZ, JULIE S. ALIPALA, RYAN D. ROSAURO, LEAH AGONOY, RICHEL UMEL, DEXTER CABALZA AND NESTOR CORRALES