Happy Feast of the Epiphany — or Happy Three Kings.
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NOT given the news coverage it deserves, because most Filipinos were busy celebrating Christmas and preparing their noche Buena dinners, was the massacre on December 24 of farmers working in their ricefields and a lethal grenade attack on a church in Mindanao.
There was some broadcast news right after the outrage and news got printed the next day. It turned out that the AFP fought off eight separate attacks on Christians on Thursday December 24 and Friday December 25 Christmas Day. Some 200 jihadists and Islamic extremists were involved in the eight incidents.
The attacks were carried out by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). BIFF and MILF fighters were the ones who massacred the PNP-SAF Commandos last January. The BIFF on Christmas Eve killed seven farmers who were spraying insecticides in their ricefields. In the grenade attack at a church two more people were killed by the jihadists.
Pope Francis grieved over these tragedies. The Holy Father, through his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a telegram of condolences to Msgr. Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio in Manila, immediately following the attacks.
‘’The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of innocent people in Mindanao, and he sends condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. His Holiness prays that security and safety will be established for all people in the region, so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear. He asks all believers to reject violence in the name of God who is love, and invokes abundant divine gifts of consolation, mercy and strength upon those affected by this tragedy.’’
The BIFF is among the Islamic extremists in Mindanao who are known to have pledged support to the Daesh (or the group that calls itself Islamic State though the Arab authorities call them Daesh).
In a baranggay in Esperanza town in Sultan Kudarat province, rebels fleeing from army troops took a family hostage on Thursday Christmas Eve. They allowed a mother and her child to escape but killed the three men in the kidnapped group.
In another attack, a barangay official was shot dead by terrorists late on Christmas Eve in North Cotabato. People in another barangay took refuge in a Catholic church after hearing that the BIFF was on a rampage.
The BIFF, opposes the peace talks between the Aquino Administration and its former mother organization, the MILF. The BIFF circulated a video in which one of its commanders pledged support for the Daesh (the Islamic State or ISIS), which has defeated government forces in Syria. From the territories they occupy in Syria, leaders of Daesh have announced their establishment of an Islamic Caliphate from which they envision to increase their victories in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.
Western forces, in alliance with local Arab tribal armies and political groups, have retaken Ramadi from the Daesh/ISIS, however. Some assessments say the Daesh is losing strength–but will remain a threat to the rest of the world for some time.
The Aquino Administration keeps denying that Daesh/ISIS (and its Islamic Caliphate) has gained a foothold in Mindanao. But people on the ground know better.