FR. ELISEO MERCADO, JR: Black Sunday For Jolo Christian Community

Evildoers bombed the Jolo Catholic Cathedral on January 27, 2019, during the Sunday Mass at about 8 am. Two bombs exploded causing 27 fatalities both soldiers and ordinary Sunday Church goers including the Parish Pastoral Council President and his wife and wounding about 70 regular Churchgoers and soldiers.

All people of goodwill and leaders of both Christian and Muslim communities condemned the attack against the minority Christian Community at the Sunday worship in the Cathedral of Jolo.

It appears that the attack was well planned and executed that inflicted massive casualties and instilled fears and insecurities among the minority Christians in the Vicariate of Jolo that covers the two island provinces of Sulu and Tawi Tawi.

This is NOT the first attack in the Cathedral of Jolo, but the previous ones were grenade attacks and IED planted outside the Cathedral. This is the first time that the bombing is a direct attack against Christians on a Sunday Mass. Seven (7) Soldiers, guarding the Cathedral, are among the casualties.

The Vicariate of Jolo is not unfamiliar to the wanton killings of Christians – Lay and Clergy in the two provinces of Sulu and Tawi Tawi. The FEW ISIS-like groups now see the presence of Christians, once treasured by the peace-loving Muslims in bygone times, as an affront to their desired “Islamic State” for the two Provinces.

However, though their numbers are few, they wreck havoc on the minority Christian community that now fear for their lives and livelihood. They are “defenseless” against the violence of these few ISIS-like Groups that go by different tags. The more known groups are the Abu Sayyaf Groups or ASG.

In these times, we remember the MARTYRDOM of the Pastors of the Vicariate who were slain simply because they ministered to the communities – Muslims and Christians alike. The first was the Bishop of Jolo, Mons. Benjamin de Jesus, OMI, who was murdered in front of the Jolo Cathedral on February 4, 1997. The second was Fr. Benjamin Inocencio murdered at the back of the Jolo Cathedral on December 28, 2000. And the third is Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI who was brutally murdered in his Mission place in Tabawan, South Ubian, Tawi Tawi on January. 15, 2008.

Amid fears and insecurities of the Christians and their pastors, we join them in prayers and express our solidarity with them.

Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya – Philippines
January 28, 2019