Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Catholic Bishop threatened: Convert to Islam

PHILIPPINES Letter Demands Bishop Convert To Islam Or Pay Tax To Ensure His Safety
July 22, 2008
MANILA (UCAN) -- A southern Philippine bishop has reported receiving a letter threatening him with harm if he does not convert to Islam or pay "Islamic taxes."
pr_isabela_city_basilan_province.gifBishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela sent a copy of the letter on July 19 from Isabela City, 870 kilometers southeast of Manila, to Church-run Radio Veritas in Quezon City, northeast of Manila.
In an interview with UCA News the same day, Bishop Jumoad said a student of Claret College in Isabela, capital of Basilan province, was told to give the school secretary the letter to pass to the bishop.
The bishop also reported getting text messages from Catholics saying they too had received threatening letters. "Bishop, we are disoriented and we cannot sleep. What is our reaction to this?" he reported being asked by some.
The letter had the names "Puruji Indama" and "Nur Hassan J. Kallitut" printed at the bottom and "Mujahiddin" under each name. The purported senders introduced themselves as "Muslim warriors" who "don't follow any laws other than the Qur'an," Islam's holy book.
They said Bishop Jumoad should choose to convert to Islam or give jizya, Islamic tax, to their group in exchange for protecting him in the "place of Muslims."
If he refuses to convert or pay, the letter threatened "force, weapons or war may be used" against him. It warned him not to feel safe even if he is "surrounded by soldiers," and cited bombings in various cities.
The prelate was given 15 days to respond, with two mobile phone numbers to contact. "If we do not receive response from you, it means you will oppose," the letter added.
A document written in the local dialect, on the letterhead of "Al-Harakatul Islamiyya," accompanied the letter. The bishop said he does not recognize the names, but has encountered the phrase "Al-Harakatul" in kidnapping incidents in Basilan involving the Abu Sayyaf, a group listed on various countries' lists of terrorist organizations.
Two days later, CBCP News, the online news site of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, reported the kidnapping of Ronnie Ando, Vilma Ayson and Wilma Suharlo and two children, parishioners of St. Vincent Ferrer in Sumisip town.
Sumisip is among nine parishes of Isabela prelature, which covers all of Basilan, where 96,000 Catholics form 30 percent of the population. Except for Isabela City, the rest of the province belongs to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On July 22, provincial administrator Talib A. Barahim told UCA News from Isabela City that no one has reported receiving a ransom demand for the release of the parishioners, kidnapped from a public jeep. He said Governor Jum Akbar of Basilan, the provincial police director and Basilan mayors met the previous day and planned to make a "citizen's arrest."
"We are asking other passengers and once we know who the kidnappers are, we will talk to their families to convince their relatives to free the hostages. If they (kidnappers) refuse, we will hold their relatives" until the kidnappers free their hostages, Barahim said.
The administrator added that he was aware of the threatening letters sent to Bishop Jumoad and other Catholics.
In Manila on July 21, Hamid Barra, Muslim convener of the Bishops-Ulama (Islamic scholars) Conference, stressed that according to the teachings of Islam, life is sacred. He recited a verse from the Qu'ran that says whoever kills a person without justification kills the whole of mankind.
"It is God who gave life; he is the only one authorized to take life," Barra said.
The expert on Shari'a, Islamic law, also explained that non-Muslims who are protected by an Islamic state are required to pay jizya, which the state uses to support the poor and the needy. "If we are in a state which is not Islamic, there is no such payment required of non-Muslims."
"Al-Harakatul Islamiyya" is an Arabic term which literally means "Islamic movement," he explained, "and anybody can be this." In his view, "The problem of Muslims now is there are people who can do acts in the name of Islam but are not Islamic."
The Bishops-Ulama Conference brings together Christian bishops and Muslim scholars in the southern Philippines to work for peace and development.