Alotau (Agenzia Fides) - "It was 2 am and, after a brief fight between fifty criminals and 5 local policemen, more than ten armed people entered the house of the diocesan priests where 11 of our priests and a deacon are staying". This is what Mgr. Rolando C. Santos, CM, Bishop of the diocese of Alotau-Sideia, wrote to Agenzia Fides, referring to an episode of violence that took place on March 19 at the John Sinou House.
"After having broken the side door of the house they attacked 7 of our priests - says the Bishop -, they entered their rooms and stole their laptops, cell phones, cash and other valuables. They took away a new outboard motor, solar panels, projector and a TV. As a result of continuous blows to the head, a Filipino missionary lost a lot of blood. Taken to hospital, he is now in stable conditions. Another young local priest was stabbed, yet another was severely beaten up. The others were slightly injured. All are traumatized by this attack".
The episode is part of a series of violence currently taking place in the area against the police and firefighters by a gang of criminals. Now in total dismay, priests and deacons feel responsible towards the community in the fulfillment of their pastoral duties as Holy Week approaches and must return to their parishes.
Archbishop Santos reported that the local population is greatly shaken by what happened to the priests. "The population no longer feels safe and lives in fear. In Alotau and the rest of the province, violence continues to increase and the peace process is crumbling. The police are powerless because they are outnumbered by the criminals, who are much better armed than they are".
"There is a need for dialogue between the government, the criminal group which rages in the area, sowing violence and destruction, the churches and the people in general on how to restore peace and order to Alotau", insists Mgr. Santos. "Differences should be resolved peacefully - he concludes - and respect for the rights and dignity of every person should be restored. Above all, we need to pray and implore God's help and forgiveness. There is hope for a better tomorrow if we all act together". (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 26/3/2021)