Christians and Muslims in the Philippines held "unity walks" to call for peace following deadly blasts that rocked the south of the country last week. In Manila, hundreds of people gathered for a prayer rally on Feb. 3 to show "the world that Filipino Muslims and Christians are one." They condemned the bombing of a Catholic cathedral
in Jolo province that killed at least 22 people on Jan. 27 and a grenade explosion in a mosque
in Zamboanga City that killed two on Jan. 30. In Mindanao, an interfaith prayer rally was also held in Cagayan de Oro City on Feb. 2 to mark the start of the observance of "World Interfaith Harmony Week." Monsignor Rey Monsanto admitted that there was "a sense of fear" among Catholic clergy in Mindanao and that the bomb explosions in Jolo and Zamboanga could spark further violence. "We are worried that Christians and Muslims will begin blaming each other," said the priest, adding that they might use religion as an excuse to wage war. Abdulnasser Masorong, director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said the violence "has caused harm to the entire nation in a divisive effort to further widen the gap between Muslims and Christians." Alec Mohammad, a Muslim religious leader in Cagayan de Oro, however, said the violence "will not break the spirit of the long-standing relationship" among Mindanao’s peoples. In Zamboanga City, Muslim religious leaders appealed for calm, saying any attack on a place of worship "can never be justified by rhyme or reason." In Manila, Monsignor Albert Songco, vicar-general of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, urged people during the "unity walk" to "activate the forces of goodness, justice, love, and peace in our communities." On Feb. 3, prayer intentions during Sunday Masses in Manila Archdiocese included the victims of the bombings in Jolo and Zamboanga. Meanwhile, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Manila, has beefed up security following the Jolo incident. Sniffer dogs and security personnel have been deployed to patrol the church, also known as Quiapo Church, and the surrounding area. The Archdiocese of Davao earlier prohibited backpacks and boxes
inside churches as a security measure.