Catholic bishop, Muslim cleric condemn desecration of cathedral
A Catholic bishop and a ranking Muslim cleric on Tuesday condemned the desecration of a cathedral in Marawi and the destruction of its holy images by Maute group gunmen as the terrorists laid siege to the city two weeks ago.
The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also denounced the attack on St. Mary’s Cathedral and urged people not to allow the incident to cause division between Muslims and Christians in the region.
Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña decried the burning of the cathedral and the smashing of images of the crucified Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, calling the gunmen’s act “trampling on the Catholic faith.”
“That is blasphemy. It’s unacceptable. It’s obvious that their actions are really out of this world. It’s demonic,” De la Peña said in a report posted on the news website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
A video of the attack on the cathedral was posted on the Facebook page “Duterte Ang Pagbabago” on Monday.
The footage showed armed men rampaging inside the cathedral and throwing down and stomping on the images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph and tearing up posters of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI.
Gunmen, mostly teenagers, were seen setting fire to a part of the cathedral.
Alim Abdulmuhmin Mujahid, executive director of the Darul Ifta (House of Opinion) in the ARMM, said his group “strongly condemns the desecration” of the cathedral.
An “alim” is a Muslim priest. The plural form of the term is “ulama.”
“[T]he holy Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, forbids desecration of holy places, especially churches and synagogues,” Mujahid said in a statement sent to the Inquirer by text message.
“It is stated in the holy Quran, Al-Haj (22:40): ‘And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned,’” he said.
Mujahid was one of the organizers of the Ulama Summit Against Terrorism held in Cotabato City on May 13-15.
He is the vice chair of the Basilan Ulama Council.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman called the attack on the cathedral “un-Islamic” and urged all Muslims in Mindanao to condemn the action of the terrorists linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.
“I call on all Muslims to condemn what the Maute did to the place of worship of our Christian brothers and sisters,” Hataman said on Tuesday, adding that Muslims and Christians should not fall into the Maute trap.
“The intention of the Maute for doing that was to agitate our Christian brothers and sisters to make extreme retaliatory actions,” he said.
The attack on the cathedral should not cause a rift between Christians and Muslims, he said.
“At this point, we have to be strong and united in the fight against terrorism in the country,” Hataman said.
In his report on the CBCP news website, De la Peña said he had information that the Maute group had a plan to attack and destroy the cathedral even before the terrorists laid siege to Marawi on May 23.
“But we didn’t take it seriously because for us it was unthinkable that it’s going to happen in Marawi City,” De la Peña said.
“We are angered by what happened. Our faith has really been trampled on,” De la Peña said.
Maute gunmen poured into the city on the afternoon of May 23 following a bungled military attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group who had pledged allegiance to IS and is allied to Maute.
They attacked the cathedral and seized the vicar of Marawi, Fr. Teresito Suganob, and more than 200 other civilians as hostages.
The attack prompted President Duterte to declare martial law in all of Mindanao and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus on the island for 60 days.
A military operation to dislodge the terrorists has led to the deaths of 120 terrorists, 39 soldiers and policemen.
The authorities have put the civilian death toll at between 20 and 38.
Officials say 1,469 civilians have been rescued.
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