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Last week, members of a terrorist group destroyed a Catholic chapel, desecrating consecrated hosts and religious icons, during a nine-hour long attack on the town of Malagakit in southern Philippines. The June 21 attack was reportedly carried out by about 300 gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, known as BIFF, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. In the siege they also robbed houses and stores at gunpoint, causing the displacement of hundreds of residents. Residents were also forced to flee after being caught in a fire-fight between BIFF and government forces, according to Realan Mamon, the police chief of Pigkawayan town, where Malagakit is located. He told the Associated Press that he had a report that gunmen were occupying a school as well, although it wasn’t immediately apparent if people were trapped inside by the fighting or taken hostage. In the chapel, which is nearby a school also destroyed in the attack, the militants used hammers to destroy religious icons and vital fixtures. They also desecrated consecrated hosts. Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato decried the act Saturday, saying that he condemns “in the strongest terms possible the wicked desecration of the Catholic Chapel of Malagakit in the parish of Pigcawayan…”
Cardinal Quevedo described the desecration of the chapel as “wicked.” “Such acts are similar to the desecration of a mosque and the sacred Quran by non-Muslims. Both desecrations are gravely sinful,” said the prelate. Cardinal Quevedo challenged the leaders of the BIFF to punish its men who desecrated the chapel. “If the BIFF wants to have an image as a respecter of all religions, it must punish its members who perpetrated the odious desecration and educate all its members in strictly respecting other religions,” said the prelate. The cardinal called on Catholics in Pigcawayan to restore the sacredness of their chapel. Last month, terrorist gunmen also desecrated St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi, some 150 kilometers from Cotabato. The gunmen were seen on a video destroying religious images and burning the cathedral. The siege entered its second month this week with government forces retaking several areas of the city occupied by the gunmen. Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has branded the desecration of sacred sites as “un-Islamic.” “These terrorists are nothing but hypocrites who undermine the true essence of Islam,” said the governor.