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Sulu is an archipelago of over 457 islands located on the southernmost part of the Philippines.  The two provinces, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi, have a total population of 698,175.  Of these, 97 per cent are Muslims.  The people are Tausugs, Samals, Jama Mapun, Badjaos and other small ethnic tribes.  The rest are mostly Christians who are migrants to the islands.  Dialects spoken include Tausug, Sinama, Cebuano, Chabacano, Pilipino as well as English and Chinese.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Jolo was established on December 28, 1953.  It was raised to an apostolic vicariate on July 12, 1958 and remains a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga.  The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo comprises the whole civil province of Sulu.  Its titular patron is Our Lady of Mount Carmel whose feasts is celebrated July 16.

As early as the 15th century there was already a Muslim sultanate in Sulu.  The people were mostly traders, or those who raided the Visayan coasts from the 16th to the 19th centuries.  Governments, from Spanish times to the present, have been trying to pacify the Muslim groups.  The Spaniards placed a troop garrison in Jolo.  The Americans too fought their battles with the Muslims.  In 1903 Sulu became part of Southern Mindanao.  Civil rule was finally established in 1914.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo takes care of the Christians who are concentrated in the islands of Jolo, Bongao, Siasi, Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, Bato-Bato, Sibuto, Stangkai and Tabawan, where the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have established the Notre Dame schools.

Though predominantly Muslim, the people maintain an atmosphere of friendly and harmonious relationships.  Muslims and Christians alike are beneficiaries of the projects initiated by the Church such as housing, education, cooperatives, social development projects and health programs.

The vicariate has five ministries which are tasked to bring about the "NEW REALITY" as envisioned in its vision-mission statement.

The Mass Media Ministry operates the Sulu/Tawi-Tawi Broadcasting Foundation Inc. which runs the broadcast stations DXMM and TV Channel 10 in Jolo, Sulu, and DXGD in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.  It provides a forum for an exchange of ideas to foster inter-religious and inter-community collaboration.

The Social Development Ministry looks after the socio-economic needs of the people, particularly the poor and the marginalized.  Among its income generating projects are the Tricycle Drivers' Association, the production of T-shirts, sewing, card-making, dried flower arrangements and others.  There are also special projects for the Badjaos (sea gypsies).  There are Notre Dame integrated cooperatives in the islands.  Three big cooperatives are in Jolo.

The Five Housing Projects initiated by the Vicariate of Jolo are of great help in the Jolo mission.  The need for housing facilities increased after Jolo was razed to the ground by the big fire caused by the rebellion in 1974.

The Kasulutan Housing Project has 404 units and the Kasalamatan Housing Project has 711 units.  Both housing projects are for low-cost housing  for the refugees and the low-income families.

The Kakuyagan Housing Project has 274 units, and the Gandasuli Housing Project has 104 units and Kasanyangan Housing Cooperative has 652 units.

There are also the Health Care, Education and Parochial Ministries serving the Christian minority in the vicariate.  BEC's are strengthening their programs and activities.  The present situation the reality of Muslim fundamentalism is one of the challenges of the Christian communities.

In the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo there are 9 parishes, 2 mission stations, 1 pastoral center, and 2 formation centers.  There are also 9 religious congregations helping in the mission work of the vicariate.

 

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