COTABATO, Philippines – An Oblate priest was shot to death when he resisted armed men trying to take him from his southern Philippine mission.

Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda, 53, was praying in the Notre Dame of Tabawan School chapel late Jan 15 when armed men tried to take him away.

Father Roda struggled and resisted. He was beaten, then shot dead, and the armed men also took some valuables from his office before fleeing.

Father Roberto Layson, coordinator of the Oblate interreligious dialogue programme, said Father Roda’s death might have something to do with politicians angered by his work against fraud in last year’s election. Father Roda had received threats recently, but refused an offer of protection, Father Layson added.

Father Roda headed the Oblate mission on Tabawan for 10 years. Tabawan is one of 457 islands that make up Tawi-Tawi province, where nearly 96 percent of the more than 322,000 people counted in the 2000 national census were Muslim.

Father Roda was born in Cotabato province Feb 5, 1954. After his priestly ordination in 1980, he served in a Manila parish, where he set a trend he would follow the rest of his life: working with those he called "the anawim", a biblical reference to lost and forgotten people.

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