New Jolo prelate to keep up work for peace

New Jolo prelate to keep up work for peace

Bishop-elect Charlie Inzon of Jolo celebrates Mass at the OMI Provincial House in Cotabato City on May 9, 2020. SCREENSHOT/OMI PHILIPPINES

By CBCP News

May 12, 2020

Manila, Philippines

The new prelate of Jolo, an island in the country’s south long plagued by instability, recognized proactive peace-building as one of his pastoral priorities.

Just like his predecessors, bishop-elect Charlie Inzon said he stand committed to do everything to realize an end to armed conflict and violence in Sulu province.

“The focus would be on peace-making and peace-building to mitigate group-level violent encounters that affect other levels of peace,” he said.

He made the statement in a recent interview published by The Mindanao Cross, a Cotabato city-based newspaper run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).

Pope Francis on April 4 appointed Inzon as the sixth apostolic vicar of Jolo.

The vicariate, which also covers Tawi-Tawi province, has been without a bishop since November 2018 after Angelito Lampon was named archbishop of Cotabato.

Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State and is notorious for its bombings and kidnapping.

The group was also tagged in the twin bombing of the Jolo cathedral in 2019 that killed at least 20 people, mostly churchgoers.

While the Philippines is predominantly Catholic, Christians are a minority in Jolo and nearby provinces that are majority Muslim.

Having spent most of his missionary life in Jolo, Inzon said that its people are “very religious, friendly, affectionate and sincere”.

“I would say that on the relational, personal, and interpersonal aspects, things are not bad as some people outside Sulu would think about it,” he said.

“Admittedly, this reality is disrupted by structural violence including persistent military and Abu Sayyaf battles, violent encounters among clans and intermittent kidnapping and threats within towns,” he added.

Having been out of the vicariate for more than six years now, Inzon also admitted the need for him to be “acquainted” again with the people of Jolo.

“It is important for me to rekindle that friendships that I already have, to begin with,” he said.

Since 2018, the bishop-elect has been serving as OMI’s provincial superior.

As head of the OMI mission, Inzon said that dialogue and consultation helped him frame his leadership approaches.

“I think I would the same when I go back as shepherd this time of the vicariate – visit, consult, and draw up context and evidence-based projects,” he said.