Christian and Muslim leaders as well as some foreign diplomats met representatives of the Philippine Defense Department on Friday to discuss cooperation in the fight against terrorism. According to an official statement, the department’s anti-terror task force called the meeting as part of an effort to promote inter-religious solidarity.
Published reports from the Friday meeting say talks with the Defense Department centered around the fight against terrorism and a cooperative effort to end sectarian violence. Among those attending were Taha Basman of the UNESCO Commission in the Philippines and about 30 Christian leaders of the Protestant, Catholic, and other churches. Muslims were represented by about 20 Muslim government officials, academics and clerics, the department said. Also attending were diplomats from the Australian, German, Indonesian, Iranian, Libyan, Malaysian, Saudi Arabian, and United States embassies.
Although not directly linked, the meeting comes as 17 Abu Sayyaf kidnappers were sentenced to death by a local court for capturing Filipino and foreign tourists from a resort in the southern Philippines in 2001.
It was the first mass conviction of members of the Abu Sayyaf who have been kidnapping and killing Christians and foreigners in Mindanao islands for the past decade.
The 17 convicts, followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani, seized three Americans and a group of Filipino tourists and resort workers from Palawan May 27, 2001 and brought them to Basilan, where they seized more Filipino hostages and killed those who could not pay the ransom.
American hostage Guillermo Sobero was beheaded and another, missionary Martin Burnham, was killed when troops stormed the Abu Sayyaf camp during military rescue operation on June 7, 2002.