Philippines Christians Mourn Believers Killed in Muslim Violence

Monday, February 6, 2006

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
Christians fear gunmen in Jolo

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BosNewsLife)-- Christian believers in the Philippines on Sunday, February 5, mourned 6 Christians, including an infant, who were killed by Muslim militants shortly after a missionary couple died in an ambush.

The six victims died Friday, February 3, when gunmen opened fire at their Christian home on the mainly Muslim island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, army officials said. Altough nobody claimed responsibility, locals blame the attack on rebels of the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim group with ties to terror networks al-Qaida and the regional group Jemaah Islamiah.

Aby Sayyaf neither confirmed nor denied the attack which killed three men, two women and an infant. Six others, three of them children, survived the shooting with minor injuries, army officials said. However Major Gamal Hayudini, a spokesman for the military’s Southern Command, was quoted as saying by local media that the army "believed this has something to do with a family feud."

Hayudini identified those killed as Itting Pontilla, 45, Emma Casipong, 16 Melanie Patinga, 9-months-old Selma Patinga and Pedro Casipong. The wounded were Norde Patinga, 38, Jason Patinga, 3, Jennifer Pontilla, 19, and Lucring Casipong, 50, Hayudini said. 20 people other people were also wounded in separate attacks by unidentified men in Patikul and Jolo, news reports said.


Friday's deadly violence came just days after militants gunned down an Alliance Church pastor and his wife in the troubled province of South Cotabato. The couple Timothy Ariao, 46, and Delia Juebas, 39, died instantly last weekend when the gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons in the Tupi municipality, officials told reporters.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but bandits and communist insurgents have attacked several church leaders in the region since 1985 when government militias in North Cotabato province killed Italian Priest Tullio Favali. A Roman Catholic Priest, Benjamin Inocencio, was shot dead by a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant in Jolo in December 2000. Filipino priest Roel Gallardo was kidnapped and killed the same year in Basilan island.

A year later, an Irish priest of the Columban order Father Rufus Halley, was also killed in Lanao del Sur, news reports said. American missionary Martin Burnham was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group in June 2001 and killed the next year in Zamboanga del Norte. A US missionary was also killed along with 20 others in a bomb attack in March 2003 at the Davao airport in Mindanao


The bloodshed added to a week of tragedies in the Philippines, which also mourned the 74 people killed in a stampede early Saturday, February 4.

On Sunday, February 5, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo ordered an immediate investigation into the accident, which also injured more than 500 others at a Manila stadium. The stampede happened as more than 30,000 people were waiting to get inside the Philsports Arena for the TV game show Wowowee, which raffles huge cash prizes, said Vicente Eusebio, the mayor of suburban Pasig.

Despite the incident, tens of thousands of Christians were expected to pack Manila’s Rizal Park where American evangelist Franklin Graham spoke "on the love and forgiveness found in Christ" on the last night of his four-day Metro Manila Festival.

During the first night alone, attendance was 33,700, "and more than 1,490 committed their lives to Jesus Christ," said the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, named after his father. (With reports from the Philippines, BosNewsLife Research and BosNewsLife News Center).

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