The Philippines have suffered another terrorist attack in Marawi.
A bombing struck a Catholic mass in a gymnasium at Mindanao State University on Sunday, the same weekend a 7.6 earthquake struck off the same island.
While the Philippines are the third largest Catholic country and Mindanao is a Catholic majority island, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where Marawi is located is a majority autonomous Muslim region.
This region has had many periods of extreme separatism under many nations from Spain to the USA and now to the Philippines.
Following the September 11th Attacks on the USA in 2001, the Philippines became a hotbed for al-Qaeda threats.
Once ISIS became more powerful, ISIS began to be a major player in the Philippines.
In 2017, the local ISIS affiliates took over parts of this region including Marawi and the Philippines had to lay siege to the city to free its people from tyranny.
But the facts on the ground are much more complicated.
While there are Islamic extremists in the autonomous region, and while there are those who seek independence by any means necessary, most people appear to only seek a federalist Philippines with more guarantees for autonomy. In fact, the two main regional separatist groups worked with the Philippines to free the region from ISIS in 2017.
Therefore, Filipino president “Bongbong” Marcos has called this bombing a foreign terrorist attack. Investigations are ongoing.
The Philippines and their Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have been growing closer together following “Bongbong” Marcus’s victory because his party is for federalism. Furthermore, recent wealth sharing deals and more autonomy referendums and agreements have created more unity.
Nevertheless, the Philippines and their autonomous region must be diligent to stop any terror group from growing or carrying out more attacks.
Thus, we need to pray for peace in the region and hope for cooler minds to prevail. The Muslims of the region and the Christians in the rest of the country must come together to help each other in a very difficult week.