A Roman Catholic cathedral in the Philippines was bombed on Sunday, resulting in approximately 100 injuries and about 20 dead. The government has vowed to bring the guilty party to justice.
Two explosive devices went off at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, also known as the Jolo Cathedral, in the Mindanao region. The international Islamic terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo explained in a statement that the first bomb went off in the cathedral, with a second going off nearby as soldiers came to help, as reported by CNN.
Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said in a statement released Sunday that people should “remain calm and avoid spreading panic in our respective communities to deny terrorism any victory.”
“As we convey our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and offer our sympathy to the peace-loving people of Sulu who are severely affected by this dastardly act, we assure our people that we will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind this incident,” continued Lorenzana, according to CNN.
The attack came days after the predominantly Muslim region overwhelmingly approved a referendum for greater autonomy with the hopes of expanded economic opportunity resulting.
President Rodrigo Duterte, known for making his share of anti-Catholic statements to the press, visited the cathedral, with his spokesperson Salvador Panelo saying that they will “crush” the perpetrators.
“The enemies of the state have boldly challenged the capability of the government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region,” stated Panelo, as reported by Al Jazeera.
“The armed forces of the Philippines will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals.”
Philippine authorities suspect that the cathedral bombing was done by Abu Sayyaf, a domestic terrorist group connected to ISIS and has a history of violent activities in Mindanao.
For his part, Pope Francis took to his official Twitter account on Sunday to express his condolences to the victims of the terrorist attack at the cathedral.
“Let us pray for the victims of the terrorist attack on the Cathedral of Jolo, in the Philippines. May the Lord, Prince of Peace, convert the hearts of the violent, and grant the inhabitants of that region a peaceful coexistence,” tweeted Francis.
Earlier this month, the persecution watchdog group Release International issued a statement in which they predicted an increase in Christian persecution in 2019.
“[British Foreign Secretary] Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review into an estimated 215 million Christians who face violence and discrimination. According to official figures, violence against Christians is rising, with 250 killed each month,” reported Release International.