A Catholic Mass at a Filipino university was devastatingly disrupted by a bombing, which has killed at least four Christians and injured many others.
A bomb attack on a university has killed at least four Christians and injured 45 others. The attack took place on Sunday 3 December at the state-run Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi, Southern Philippines.
The bombing happened during a Catholic Mass, being held in the gymnasium of the university. Most of those killed or injured are students. At the time of writing, the people or group responsible for the bombing is not yet known.
"They are hurting, the Christians are hurting," shares Hadassah*, a local Open Doors partner. "It's heartbreaking - they are innocent, and have faced such a terror from this extremist group."
Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the deadly bombing on Sunday, saying, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists. Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.” In response, police and the military have strengthened security measures in the country's south and around the capital Manila.
Other officials have joined him in condemning the attack, with Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner suggesting it could be a retaliation to recent military operations against local groups which support so-called Islamic State (IS).
"We are not afraid"
Local Christians are determined to stand strong. Precious*, a believer who converted from Islam and a Christian leader in the region, says: “We are not afraid, but we are being more cautious, especially given the current situation.”
Mindanao, a region with both a Catholic majority and a sizable Muslim population, has endured previous challenges, including a prolonged siege by IS-affiliated militants in 2017 in Marawi, the city where the Mindanao State University is also located. Attacks against Christians are rare in the northern Philippines, which is Christian-majority, but more common in the Muslim-majority southern Philippines.
"Most of these places are about 99% Muslims, and only minimal Christians," says Hadassah. "They face danger - they're the number one target for such terrorism, and prejudices or discrimination. There are some people in the community that don't want Christians to live in their community. They threaten the Christians - they threaten the church. But for me, as Christians, I would still encourage the church to respond passively to pursue peace in whatever capacity they can."
Hadassah asks for prayer from the worldwide church:
- The families and friends of those who lost their lives; may they find strength and solace in this difficult time
- The swift recovery of the more than 45 individuals injured; that they may receive the healing they need
- Comfort and support for the Marawi community as they navigate through this traumatic event
- Wisdom and strength for the authorities and medical professionals involved in the response and investigation
- Guidance and success for the law enforcement operations to swiftly bring justice to the perpetrators of this terrorist activity
- Healing and resilience for the people of Marawi in the face of recent military operations and potential retaliatory attacks
- In addition, please lift a special prayer for Precious, other believers from a Muslim background, and secret believers living in the area. May they experience God's protection, courage, and peace amidst these challenging circumstances.
*Name changed for security reasons
Source: Open Doors