Philippines: Muslims and Christians mourn slain priest

 Hundreds of Muslims and Christians thronged to the Holy Rosary Church in the Tawi-Tawi capital of Bongao, where the body of murdered OMI priest, Fr Jesus Reynaldo Roda, was taken on Saturday. Fr Bert Layson, parish priest of Pikit, North Cotabato said: "They were united. Even the Muslims there brought food." Abdul Khan, a member of the Darul Ifta (House of Opinion) in Tawi-Tawi, said Muslims in the entire province were in mourning. "We lost a dear friend. The Darul Ifta condemns the killing. Fr Roda was well loved because he was so kind. In fact, he built a mosque for Muslim students on the Notre Dame campus," Khan said. Fr Roda, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation, was director of the Notre Dame school in Tabawan town and head of the mission station there. He would have been 54 next month. The OMI the Notre Dame school and community outreach humanitarian projects, including microfinance livelihood project of Samah and Tausug fisherfolk. The ten gunmen who killed Roda are still holding captive Omar Taup, a teacher at Notre Dame, and fisherman Hussin Sahirul, who they seized as they fled, said Superintend Wainwright Taup, the police director of Tawi-Tawi. Taup said a huge police and marine operation is now underway to capture the killer and their captives, who are belived to be hiding on one of the small islands in the area. Tawi-Tawi Vice Govornor Ruby Sahali-Tan said: "The provincial board strongly condemns the brutal murder of Fr Roda, who had been helping improve the lives of people in one of the towns in Tawi-Tawi." Sheikh Mohammad Muntassir, head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's Da'wah (Call to Islam) Committee, said the lives of noncombatants, including priests, were held inviolable in Islam. He condemned the killing and said it was an indication of the worsening security situation in the country. The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) also denounced the killing as barbaric, and said Roda was a loss not only to his family and religious order but to "all peace-loving people." Roda's death "demonstrates that peace is difficult and requires the most heroic labour and the most difficult sacrifice. Father Rey has made the supreme and heroic sacrifice," the PCID. Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said he was "deeply saddened" by the cruel death of Fr Roda. Fr Ramon Bernabe, head of the OMI in the Philippines, said the congregation was saddened by the death of a dedicated missionary who offered his life for the poor. Fr Bernabe said Fr Roda had received threats but was so dedicated to his work he never asked for a transfer Fr Roda will be buried at the OMI cemetery in Shariff Kabunsuan province on 23 January.

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