The island of Basilan belongs to the Mindanao group of islands in the southern Philippines. Whereas in the Philippines as a whole Catholics form the great majority of the population, here on the island of Basilan Muslims make up around two thirds of the population. This is part of a region where the Islamist terrorists of the Abu-Sayaf group have been trying to establish a breakaway "Islamic State of Mindanao". Though they describe themselves as "Islamic fighters", they are regarded by the international community and by the rest of the Filipino population as terrorists and common criminals. They continue to try and spread fear and division through bombings and abductions. 

The parish of Saint Anthony in Lamitan City is a vigorous and thriving parish, despite these circumstances. There is a regular Sunday congregation of 700 Catholic faithful. The parish church has stood here for 40 years, but over the course of time it has become increasingly run down and is moreover far too small for the growing Catholic community. There is an urgent need for a new and larger church, but the parish is too poor to raise the funds for such a project.

(Parishioners of the St. Anthony church in Lamitan city gather together at an outdoor Mass on the church grounds © Aid to the Church in Need)

Bishop Martin Jumoad supports this project, which is dear to his heart. For one thing, there is an obvious need for the church, but at the same time it will be a powerful sign of the presence and identity of the Catholics in this town. He writes, "We would like to build a solid and permanent church that will convey a message of stability and solidarity and of the strong faith of the people of God. The Muslims respect people who are united and strong and who live a life of prayer. A solid church will earn their respect and will hopefully also help to bring peace to our land." The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is helping with a contribution of $45,000.

The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929 

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