Franciscans preach in extremist territory in Mindanao

Light of truth

Undaunted by the danger posed by extremists in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, Franciscan missionaries hold Masses and other church activities in the mountains of Basilan province, home of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group.

Franciscan Father Elton Viagedor, pastor of San Roque parish in the town of Lantawan, said they want to show that the church is “centrifugal” in its missionary approach, that it can be “flexible in spreading the mission.”

“We hold Masses either in the streets or in backyards to show that the church should not wait for people to come to the parish chapel,” the priest told ucanews.com.

He said it is the Franciscan congregation’s “simple way of responding to the present day challenge of going out of the comforts of the parish or the convents to be with those on the peripheries.”

“It is on the peripheries that we are transformed,” said Father Viagedor.

“As Franciscans, I believe that we should be willing to go to the margins, even if they are considered risky and difficult,” said the priest.

“Such daring is not driven by arrogance but by the simple fact that we are dependent on God’s grace and by the desire to encounter the people on the peripheries,” added Father Viagedor.

The priest said the Masses he celebrates in the streets are not meant to attract Muslims to convert to Christianity, noting that people in the province maintain a healthy inter-religious and inter-cultural relationship.

The conflict displaced about 400,000 people.

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