March 26, 2003
Cotabato, Philippines (Barnabas Fund) -- Christian bus-passengers were singled out and killed by Islamic rebels in the southern Philippines, near Cotabato city, on Tuesday 18th March. Muslim rebels also planted a bomb near a cathedral in the city.
Over 100 rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) separatist group stopped vehicles along a major road on the island of Mindanao. One of those vehicles was a bus, nine male passengers from the Christian community who could not speak the local Muslim dialect were shot, while those who could were spared; six have now died. Over the past month the 12,500 strong MILF has actively targeted Christians. In another clearly anti-Christian attack a bomb exploded near a cathedral in Cotabato; thankfully no one was injured.
Islamic separatists in the majority-Christian Philippines have been fighting for an independent Islamic homeland in the south of the country for the 5 million Muslim Filipinos since 1972. Two Islamic militant groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), mainly operative on Mindanao, and the smaller and more extreme Abu Sayyaf, mainly in Basilan and Jolo, are at the forefront of the current violence. The army began a new offensive against the MILF in Mindanao on 10 February in which some 200 rebels are reported to have been killed and over 80,000 local residents displaced. Majority-Christian cities, towns and villages of the southern Philippines are often targeted by Islamic militants. Christian ministers and missionaries have in the past been singled out for particular torture and gruesome execution because of their faith.