Card Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato told religious leaders gathered in Assisi (Italy) for a meeting titled ‘Thirst for Peace’ that Abu Sayyaf bandits are “practical atheists.”
Saying that one cannot wage war in the name of God, he said the
terroristic activities of the violent jihadist group in southern
Philippines manifests a “denial of God”.
The prelate, a well-known advocate of peace between rebel Islamic
groups and the Filipino government, sought to emphasise, however,
another aspect, namely Abu Sayyaf’s “inadequate knowledge of the
Qur’an”. Another is its “selective knowledge and understanding” of the
Holy Book to justify what is not justifiable.
The “same is true also for many Christians” who “do not know the
Bible very well,” he noted. “While believing in Christ and his
teachings,” they show “a stark dichotomy between belief and practice.”
“This is one of the roots of violence and the lack of peace in
Mindanao. What we need is a new evangelisation in order to respond to
The cardinal then called on religious leaders to learn from Pope
Francis who refused to identify Islam and any religion with terrorism
and his belief that dialogue is the only path to peace.
“Pope Francis has spoken of extremists in various religions. We
should not identify extremism with religion itself,” said Cardinal
That is why "we must not doubt of those leaders and those Muslims who continue to condemn sincerely Islamic extremism.”
“For the churches and different religious faiths, the call is for
both intra-religious and inter-religious dialogue so that religious
beliefs are not distorted and God’s name is not invoked for the sake of
violence,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf is the smallest of Muslim movements fighting for the
independence of southern Philippines; however, it is the most dangerous
and violent. It is most active in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu
(whose capital is Jolo, a jihadi stronghold).
The Mindanao Muslim Autonomous Region comprises five provinces
(Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) in the
southern part of the country.
It has its own government, based in