On December 3, a deadly bomb exploded during a Mass at Mindanao State University in Marawi, Philippines, leaving at least four people dead and dozens injured. The tragic event unfolded in a predominantly Muslim city, adding to the complex dynamics of religious diversity in the region. As the nation grapples with the aftermath of the attack, international leaders, including Pope Francis, have condemned the violence and offered their support to the victims and their families.
Pope Francis Expresses Solidarity
Following the devastating news, Pope Francis expressed his condolences and solidarity with the victims in a telegram addressed to Bishop Edwin de la Peña of Marawi. The Pope assured the affected families of his prayers and emphasised his closeness to the people of Mindanao, who have endured significant hardships in the past. The message, conveyed through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, condemned the bombing and called for strength in turning away from violence.
ISIS Claims Responsibility
The day of the incident, ISIS militants claimed responsibility for the deadly blast, heightening concerns about the persisting threat of terrorism in the region. This comes as a grim reminder of the 2017 five-month battle in Marawi between government forces and Islamic militants aligned with ISIS, resulting in substantial casualties and displacements.
Philippine President’s Response
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. swiftly condemned the attack, labelling it a “senseless and most heinous act” perpetrated by foreign terrorists. In a statement on social media, President Marcos offered condolences to the victims’ loved ones and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. He affirmed the commitment of the armed forces and police to ensure the safety of civilians and the security of vulnerable communities.
Local and International Outcry
Leaders at various levels, including Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. and Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, strongly condemned the attack. Governor Adiong emphasised the importance of upholding basic human rights and condemned terroristic attacks on educational institutions, which play a crucial role in promoting peace and shaping the future generation.
Mindanao State University, deeply saddened and appalled by the act of violence, suspended classes and increased security on its campus. While the authorities labelled the incident a “terror attack,” investigations are ongoing to determine the motives and identify those responsible. Military leaders are assessing whether the attack was in retaliation to recent gains against militant groups in the region.
Nationwide Impact and Heightened Security
The explosion, occurring during the Advent and Christmas season, has set off alarms beyond the Lanao del Sur province area. With increased travel, shopping sprees, and traffic jams, the Philippine coast guard has intensified intelligence gathering and security measures, including stricter inspections and the deployment of bomb-sniffing dogs. In Manila, Filipino Muslims gathered to pray in solidarity with the victims, highlighting the nationwide impact of the tragedy.
As the Philippines grapples with the aftermath of this tragic bombing, the international community stands united in condemning such acts of violence. Pope Francis’ message of solidarity and prayers for the victims underscores the need for peace and unity in the face of adversity. The nation remains resilient, determined to overcome the challenges posed by extremism and terrorism, as leaders work towards justice and the restoration of a sense of security for all citizens.