Basilan prelate won’t allow desecration of chapels to derail peace efforts

Basilan prelate won’t allow desecration of chapels to derail peace efforts

Bishop Leo Dalmao of Isabela celebrates Mass at the Sta. Isabel Cathedral in Basilan province’s Isabela City on May 24, 2019. PHOTO BY JOHN LUIS GUADES, CMF

By CBCP News

February 20, 2021

Manila, Philippines

A Catholic bishop condemned the desecration of some chapels in the southern Philippine island of Basilan but said it should not derail peace-building efforts in the area.

Bishop Leo Dalmao of Isabela prelature said the recent attacks will in no way distract their works to promote interreligious dialogue.

“I remind everyone to be vigilant and refuse any opportunity for these bad elements to succeed in sowing division and hatred among us.” Dalmao said in a statement issued Thursday.

“We will not allow ourselves to be dictated by the agenda of these people and we don’t want to dignify their actions by giving them and their actions undue attention and publicity,” he said.

Religious statues in two chapels in Lamitan City were found destroyed by unknown assailants on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent for Catholics.

On Feb. 16, an attempted theft of religious icons in another chapel in the city was foiled by some residents.

Dalmao asked the faithful to pray intensely that their efforts of a peaceful and progressive province will be sustained in spite of the recent incidents.

“We may fix our gaze on what brings us together as a province — Christians, Muslims, indigenous peoples — rather than on what divides us,” he said.

“Take care of our places of worship and watch over them. Take care of one another as one community of God,” Dalmao added.

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