At least 20 Christians have been killed and 81 wounded in a bomb attack on a church in Jolo, Sulu, Southern Philippines.
Local media reported that there were two explosions early in the morning on Sunday 27 January. The first explosion went off inside the church while the service was ongoing. The second explosion went off outside the Jolo Cathedral while the government forces were responding. Casualties include civilians, soldiers and a policeman.
Spread of extremist groups
No group has taken responsibility for the blasts, but the Philippine military believes the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is involved.
Sulu, an archipelago province where the town of Jolo is located, is a region where the ASG is active. The militant group is linked to Al-Qaeda.
According to a Christian worker hailing from Jolo, the military warned that ISIS has also already entered the area and might take advantage of the situation. “Christian schools are being secured as they are most likely targets of the attacks," she says.
The spread of ISIS and other military groups into other parts of the world is one of the key trends identified by the new Open Doors World Watch List.
The reason for the bombing is not yet fully known, but it came close on the heels of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which establishes an autonomous political entity for Muslim-majority areas in Southern Philippines. Its ratification on 25 January created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Musilm Mindanao (BARMM), and is expected to solidify the long-standing peace negotiations between the government and the militant groups in Mindanao.
Our regional staff have requested prayers for:
- the safety of the whole region of Mindanao at this time, especially those who are in Jolo
- comfort for the bereaved families
- that no further blast would occur and that the Lord will disable the plans of those who are responsible for this incident
- for alertness, wisdom and strength for the Philippine government forces responding to this terrible happening.