Saudi Arabia, OIC condemn bomb attack on church in S. Philippines

Aftermath of the twim explosions at a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo. (Philippine military handout via AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia, OIC condemn bomb attack on church in S. Philippines

  • At least 20 people were killed and more than 80 injured in the twin bombings on Jolo island
  • The attack came days after the ratification of a law expanding self-rule in Muslim-majority areas in the south

MANILA/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and the head of the world’s largest body of Muslim-majority countries has strongly condemned the bombing of a Roman Catholic church in the Philippines that killed 20 people and wounded nearly a dozen.
A source from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed outrage at the attack, reasserting the Kingdom’s position of rejecting all forms of violence, terrorism and extremism. He extended condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of the Philippines, adding that Saudi Arabia wished a speedy recovery to all those injured in the blasts. 
In a separate statement, Yousef Al-Othaimeen the general secretary of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), also expressed his “deep indignation” at Sunday’s terrorist attack.
Al-Othaimeen said the OIC firmly rejects all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism, whatever their sources or motives.
In addition to the 20 fatalities, up to 81 mostly civilian churchgoers were injured in the twin bombings on the southern island of Jolo.
The first device, placed inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Carmel, detonated during Sunday mass. The second, placed at the entrance to the cathedral compound, went off as soldiers and emergency services responded to the first explosion.

Though no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, Jolo has long been plagued by the insurgent group Abu Sayyaf, considered by both the Philippine and US governments as a terrorist organization, that has carried out multiple bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in the past.

The incident comes days after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which is envisioned to be a major step toward achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. 

President Duterte’s national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said the authorities have yet to establish if the incident is related to the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

“We have yet to establish if the two explosions are related to the all-important BOL. The BOL ends the secessionist narrative. The BOL signifies the end of war for secession. It stands for peace in Mindanao,” Esperon said.

“The perpetrators are mass murderers. They are extremist criminals. We will not allow them to spoil the preference of the people for peace,” he added while giving assurance that security forces are working to secure Sulu and the rest of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

“Peace must prevail over war,” he stressed.

Following the incident, the Coast Guard has directed its district stations particularly in BOL-covered areas to enhance security measures of their facilities and ports and terminals to prevent a similar attack.

On Jan. 24, government forces seized a jungle camp of Daesh-inspired extremists in Lanao Del Sur after 10 hours of heavy fighting with remnants of the Maute Group believed to be led by Owaidah Marohombsar, alias “Abu Dar.” Three members of Marohombsar’s group were killed and three soldiers were wounded.

 

Expanded Muslim autonomy

In its statement, the OIC welcomed the ratification of the BOL, which provides expanded autonomy for the region’s minority Muslims in hopes of ending nearly five decades of a separatist rebellion that has left 150,000 people dead.

“Yes” votes won by landslide in most parts of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, particularly Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, and Tawi-Tawi.

Sulu province, of which Jolo island is located, however, rejected the BOL. Reports indicate a low turnout of voters, particularly in Jolo, during the plebiscite amid fears that violence could erupt.

(With AP)


Crown prince award ‘will build Saudi-Sino cultural bridges’

Updated 22 February 2019
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Crown prince award ‘will build Saudi-Sino cultural bridges’

ARAB NEWS BEIJING: Leading academics and literary talents from Saudi Arabia and China will be honored under an award scheme sponsored by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan announced the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the Kingdom and China during a visit to King Abdul Aziz Public Library at Peking University in Beijing on Thursday.
The announcement was made on the eve of the Saudi crown prince’s visit to China, the latest stop on an Asian tour.
The cultural cooperation award will honor leading academics, translators and high-achievers from the Kingdom and China in the categories: Best scientific research in Arabic, best artistic work, best Chinese-Arabic book translation and vice versa, person of the year, and most influential person of the year in the cultural milieu.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said: “This partnership is in the name of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and represents the common commitment to build cultural bridges between the two countries, developing cultural exchange, and promoting artistic and academic opportunities for our citizens.”
He said the yearly award will promote language, literature, and Arabic and creative arts in China, and encourage cultural exchange.
The Kingdom and China have a long history of cultural cooperation, including the annual Arabic Arts Festival.
The King Abdul Aziz Public Library at Peking University was inaugurated in 2017 during King Salman’s official visit to China, where he received an honorary doctorate degree.