Nuns Abandon Convent Out of Fear of Muslim Guerrillas

Carmelites Leave Community in Philippines

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MANILA, Philippines, SEPT. 19, 2001 ( Fear of Muslim guerrillas has compelled a community of Carmelite nuns in Marawi, southern Philippines, to abandon their convent.

Monsignor Edwin de la Pena, apostolic administrator of the Marawi Prelature, confirmed the news to the Vidimus Dominun information service. Sources said the nuns´ lives were in danger.

The Diocese of Marawi has 900,000 inhabitants, the majority Muslims. It is a region where the separatist guerrilla group Abu Sayyaf is active, and where Catholics constitute 4.7% of the population.

The Carmelite nuns arrived in the area in 1981. In 1986, some of them were kidnapped by Muslim extremists. Last month, a Columban missionary from Ireland was killed in Marawi.

On Sept. 15, the Philippine army captured three guerrillas of the Abu Sayyaf movement on the island of Basilan, south of the Philippine archipelago. The movement has ties with Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind last week´s attacks on the United States.

Abu Sayyaf has been holding 19 hostages since May 27, including two Christian missionaries of the New Tribes Mission.

This fundamentalist movement emerged in 1991 as an armed group demanding the establishment of an Islamic state in Basilan. Last year, it gained notoriety for kidnappings and decapitation murders in the Philippines and Malaysia.

Mahid Mutilan, head of the Ulema League of the Philippines, a group of Muslim scholars and religious leaders, is recommending military action as the «best option» to «flush out» the Abu Sayyaf from their lairs in Basilan and Sulu.

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