Christians face ‘alarming’ situation in Mindanao, priest says

Christians face ‘alarming’ situation in Mindanao, priest says

Fr. Sebastian D’Ambra of Silsilah Dialogue Movement speaks at the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy at the UST Pavilion in Manila, January 17, 2017. (R. Lagarde/CBCPNews)

MANILA– An Italian Catholic missionary working for interreligious dialogue and peace in Mindanao said the situation of Christians in some parts of the region “is becoming alarming.”

Fr. Sebastian D’Ambra of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement based in Zamboanga City said the region was supposedly a dream for interreligious dialogue but things has totally changed in recent years.

“Now the situation is becoming more dangerous,” D’Ambra said on Tuesday, the second day of the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy held at the UST Pavilion in Manila.

To further drive his point, he echoed Pope Francis’ previous claim that there is more persecution against Christians today than in early church.

In Mindanao, he said there is more persecution against Christians today than there was in the recent past.

“Now, it seems that the same thing (persecution in the early Church) is happening today,” D’Ambra said.

No matter how hard it is, however, the priest said the mission must continue “without losing hope.”

“We continue to pray. We will see that in the heart of each person there is a corner of goodness,” he said.

To drive his point, he recalled a moment in his life when he was almost caught in an encounter between the military and a group of Muslim rebels.

According to him, a Muslim commander asked him to leave the area because of an imminent danger.

“I said to him ‘No, I will stay with you. I’ve been with you so long so we will stay together,” D’Ambra recalled.

“And he said something that made me reflect. It was 1980 but it’s still in my heart. He said ‘Father, okay you stay with us. If they will attack us we will defend you. You will be the last to die among us,’” he added.

To hear such a statement from a rebel who has background in bombings and killings, he said “this gives us an understanding that in the deeper part of each person, there’s a corner of goodness.”

“We do not have to be afraid and be discouraged in the so many contradictions of today. We have to know that in the deeper part of the heart of each person, there’s goodness.”

“And of course we have to be patient and pray,” he said. CBCPNews