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Filipinos fill churches in spite of terrorism threats

PHILIPPINES CHURCH
cpaulfell/Shutterstock
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Alleged fatwa from Islamic State promised terror strikes on "crusader churches," but houses of worship were packed.

In spite of terrorist threats, churches in the Philippines were packed on Sunday, and Muslims took time out from celebrations of one of their holiest days to stand in solidarity with Catholics.

There were threats of terrorist attacks on places of worship in the northern Philippines to coincide with the Islamic holy day of Eid al-Adha August 11.

In the town of Manaoag, in Pangasinan province, the Islamic State group reportedly made threats against “crusader cities and churches,” a reference to Catholic sites. Philippine authorities had earlier placed the town’s Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, a popular pilgrimage site, under tight security, according to UCA News.

A military memo, leaked to the media last week, cited a “possible terror attack” in several areas in northern Luzon.

The memo noted that a “crusader city” with business centers and “crusader churches” in Northern Luzon were being targeted. …

On Aug. 11, heavily-armed soldiers and policemen, as well as sniffer dogs, were deployed around the church in Manaoag.

But if that was supposed to scare Catholics out of attending Mass, they didn’t get the memo. Fr. Anthony Eudela, prior of the basilica, said he was “overwhelmed” by attendance that day.

“I am happy that people proved that their faith is stronger than their fear,” said Fr. Eudela, a priest of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans.

He added that the church would not cancel Masses or shorten them. “We just pray, pray, and pray, there’s nothing else left [to do],” he told the news agency.

The threats not only seemed to bring more Catholics to church; it also inspired a group of Muslims to stand outside the basilica holding placards condemning terrorism and showing support for Christians.

Guialoson Kadir Macmod, a Muslim community leader, said they set aside their celebration of Eid al-Adha because “it was more important for us to show our support.”

Guialoson Kadir Macmod, a Muslim community leader, said they set aside their celebration of Eid al-Adha because “it was more important for us to show our support,” UCA News said.

“We are saddened when terrorism is identified with Islam,” said Macmod. “Terrorism is un-Islamic.”

Eid al-Adha honors the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God’s command.

Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz thanked the Muslims who showed their support and expressed hope the observance of Eid al-Adha would “make us all aware that our life is meant to be of service to others and this entails sacrifice.”

“In this life, we are challenged to make sacrifices for the welfare of others,” Archbishop Jumoad said.

The terror alert came nearly seven months after the bombing of a Catholic cathedral in the southern province of Sulu on Jan. 27, killing 22, and almost four months after a series of attacks on churches in Sri Lanka left more than 250 people dead on Easter Sunday.

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