Christmas gifts from Muslims around the world

Six people were wounded Saturday when a bomb went off in a church during Christmas mass on a southern Philippine island known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism.

Channel News AsiaMilitary spokesman Lieutenant Randolph Cabangbang said the Abu Sayyaf, a local Muslim militant group linked to the Al Qaeda network, may have been behind the attack on the church in a police camp on Jolo island. “There is a possibility that this could be the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf because they have been perpetrating similar attacks against the Catholic church,” Cabangbang said.

“The explosion occurred at around 7:15 in the morning while the mass was going on. Six people were slightly wounded in the explosion,” he said. Among those wounded was the priest officiating the mass, he added.

A spokesman for President Benigno Aquino condemned the incident, saying it violated “the basic tenets of respect”. “This assault on the peace cannot be justified on political or religious grounds,” spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, who is also based in the southern Philippines, said Christians in Jolo had been threatened by Muslims.

“There are communities that are being threatened for being Christian. They are receiving threats coming from so-called fundamentalist
Muslims,” he told AFP.
“They’re being intimidated by words. Many times they are being disturbed in their gatherings for worship,” he said.

He called on authorities to provide security and assure the safety of Christians in areas like Jolo, which is predominantly Muslim, unlike most of the rest of the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Philippines.

The Abu Sayyaf, a gang of self-styled Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, has long used Jolo as a base, carrying out kidnappings and bombings.

It is believed to have carried out the worst militant attacks in the Philippines including the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people in 2004. It has also kidnapped many foreigners and Filipino Christians, including priests and nuns, often hiding them in the jungles of Jolo and other southern islands.

MUSLIM VIOLENCE leaves dozens of Christians dead and hundreds wounded in Nigeria.

MSNBCJOS, Nigeria — Explosions in Nigeria’s central region killed 32 people on Christmas Eve and six people died in attacks on two churches in the northeast of Africa’s most populous nation, officials said on Saturday.

On Friday night, a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations in villages near the central city of Jos, killing at least 32 people while 74 were in a critical condition, the state police commissioner said. Religious violence has claimed over 500 lives this year in Jos and neighboring towns and villages, but the situation was believed to have calmed down.

Nigeria, a country of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. The blasts happened in central Nigeria, in the nation’s “middle belt,” where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of fertile lands.

Also Friday, six people died in attacks on two churches in Nigeria’s northern region.

State Police chief Mohammed Abubakar said members of the Muslim sect, Boko Haram, attacked two churches at opposite ends of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, late Christmas Eve.

Maiduguri is about 320 miles northeast of Jos. The attacks in both cities have not been linked, but Boko Haram was first based in the city of Bauchi, only 75 miles from Jos, before moving its operations to Maiduguri.

Danjuma Akawu, secretary of Victory Baptist Church said about 30 men attacked his church on Christmas Eve, killing five people, including the pastor, two choir members rehearsing for a late-night carol service and two passersby who were attacked by the mob.

Akawu, who escaped with other witnesses after climbing the church fence, said that the mob was armed with guns, knives and Molotov cocktails. He said the attackers came in three cars and dragged the pastor out of his house within the church premises before shooting him to death. They drove off after setting the church and pastor’s house ablaze.

The Christmas Eve killings in Jos and Maiduguri add to the tally of thousands who already have perished in Africa’s most populous country in the last decade over religious and political frictions.