Several Catholic churches in the Philippines have tightened security after the deadly bombing on Sept 2 that killed 14 people and injured 70 others in Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao. Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga in the northern Philippines said he has increased security measures and reminded all personnel to be “extra mindful for their safety and security of one another.”
Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao in the nation’s capital said he has urged parishes to intensify security checks. “Many of our parishioners are aware of what is happening,” said Bishop Ongtioco. The country’s Catholic bishops have already made statements calling on people to pray “for courage and change of heart.” “Prayers and decisive action are needed instead of allowing fear and panic to have the upper hand,” said Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa. On Sept. 5, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila prayed in a live broadcast over Church-run Radio Veritas, asking God to “embrace those who are longing and wounded.”
Church leaders in the southern region of Mindanao said the bomb attack has not deterred people from attending Mass. “Mass attendance here is OK,” said Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela in Basilan province, which is known to be a stronghold of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Authorities in Davao have offered a two-million-peso (about US$43,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of those behind the explosion. “We want [the bombers] alive because we want all the necessary information we can get,” said Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte. The mayor led a memorial service for victims of the explosion. “We will not be terrorized by this heinous crime and I call on all [people of Davao] to unite and let us help each other rise from this senseless incident,” she said.
The faith-based group Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., meanwhile, called on the government “not to be swayed by dilatory tactics of self-interest groups, terrorists and those who refuse to pursue the road of peace.” Emmanuel Roldan, executive director of the Legal Resource Center for Women and Children said, “This incident has no other ulterior motive but to sow terror on peace-loving innocent Christian settlers, Moro, and tribal people in Mindanao. Let us not give in to our fear and respond to violence with violence in our hearts.”
Father God, we lift up the people of Davao on the island of Mindanao where sectarian violence has plagued this southern region of the Philippines. We pray Your protection over the people there from extremist attacks. Grant Your church abundant wisdom as they consider how to respond to the attacks and to protect their people. Strengthen the civil authorities to bring an end to the bloodshed. One day soon, may the light of Christ dispel the spiritual darkness in this land. In the name of Jesus, the “the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us,” Amen.