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A blast on Christmas morning


On Christmas morning, December 25, 2010, Fr. Rickjy Bacolcol, DCJ, was the presider at the mass in the Asturias Sacred Heart Chapel in Jolo, Sulu and Fr. Romeo Villanueva, OMI was the mass co-celebrant. Fr. Rickjy had just been ordained about a month prior to this date; Fr. Villanueva has been in the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo for some time and he is the director of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Foundation. The agreement was that for the mass, Fr. Villanueva would read the Gospel and Fr. Rickjy would give a homily on peace.

When the Gospel of John was being read, a deafening explosion took place. A bomb had gone off, blasting “the whole ceiling [to the left] and creating a huge horribly framed window to the sky”. Fr. Villanueva saw that a big piece of plywood had fallen just in front of him but he was unhurt, not a scratch on him. Fr. Rickjy had been knocked unconscious by the blast and was sprawled on the floor and was wounded on his left shoulder. The mass goers had all fled the chapel but one of the lay ministers came back in to help the two priests. 

In the ensuing investigation Fr. Villanueva was interviewed and asked a number of questions.  It is significant that by his own account Fr. Vil emphasized that he did not know who was responsible for the bombing and would not point finger at anyone or any group.  He asked the Christians in Sulu not to make aspersions of any group as being responsible for the dastardly act. His experience gave Fr. Vil a profound sense of gratitude to God for His loving protection that kept him safe. He said that he  had no fear of what can come next and that he would definitely  continue to serve in Jolo.

The Silsilah Dialogue Movement has a strong presence in Jolo. The Movement has a Silsilah Forum there and a center in the middle of town. A Harmony Post has been erected, with the permission of the Sulu government, in a site near the Provincial Capitol. There is an active youth group that promotes the vision/mission of Silsilah among the youth in different schools in Jolo. And there are Muslims and Christians, members of the Movement, who have made dialogue a part of their style of life. They are the people who, by their relationship with each other, model to others what it means to live in solidarity, harmony and peace with one another in spite of differences in religious and cultural backgrounds.

The bombing of a chapel during mass on Christmas morning can be a disturbing occurrence. But God in His wisdom allows certain events to happen and if we but trust Him, something good and beautiful can emerge from the incident.  Silsilah is convinced  that Fr. Vil and Fr. Rickjy, by their very presence in Jolo and the good that they do, will spread the bright light of dialogue  in Jolo and the rest of the southern archipelago.

By Sisilah Dialogue Movement

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