Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi urged Filipinos to respond in a Christian manner to a video that has gone viral showing Maute terrorists desecrating sacred images of the Catholic Church.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines, Bishop dela Peña remarked, “when people are angry, that anger can lead to something irrational. We are not going to respond with the same kind of hatred and violence that they are trying to sow in us.”
Bishop dela Peña reminded Catholics of Christ’s commandment to love one’s enemies. “This is a challenge for us to show love for people who do not want to accept us,” said dela Peña.
Desecration of Images, A Trademark of ISIS
Catholic churches in Mindanao have been targeted by Muslim extremists for decades but yesterday’s viral video showing Maute terrorists toppling, trampling and destroying statues of the Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary bears striking resemblance to the same inflammatory propaganda videos of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
As in the Middle East, these acts were deliberately video-recorded for dissemination over social media in order to insult Christians.
Bishop dela Peña disclosed to ACN that unlike the Abu Sayyaf, which has long been known for its terrorist activities in the region, the Maute group is headed by members of an affluent Maranao family who sent their children to the Middle East.
ACN reported in a previous article that the radicalization in Mindanao has worsened with the proliferation of Islamist movements of Wahhabi inspiration, supported by Saudi Arabia. In another article, ACN also revealed that Islamist ideas are largely funded by countries in the Middle East, particularly through funding for scholarships that allow students to take courses in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and financial support for the publishing and distribution of Islamist literature in university campuses and mosques.
The 2014 Religious Freedom Report (RFR), published biannually by ACN, also disclosed that social media plays an important role in the spread of Islamist extremism. “The rise of social media has meant that fundamentalism and religious hatred is felt far beyond geographical boundaries. Extremism, popularized through Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms and other social media, is such that religious hatred preached in a distant country is quickly of local concern,” read the Introduction of the 2014 RFR.
Distinguish between True Muslims and extremists
Despite the affront of the Maute terrorists on his Cathedral, Bishop dela Peña remarked that it is important not to attribute this kind of violent behavior to all Muslims.
“The danger about this video is that people begin to generalize and get back on innocent people. It is important to distinguish between true Muslims and religious extremists, between people who are trying to sow dissension and people who are moderate and level-headed,” said dela Peña.
Note: This is a developing story. ACN Philippines will update the article once more information is obtained.