Rome – “The situation in Marawi continues to be critical, but we hope for a positive outcome. News is encouraging, we know our hostage Catholics are alive and that the army has guaranteed they will not be considered, ‘collateral damage’, and that everything will be done to bring them to safety. President Duterte has said that the mosque where the few remaining rebels with their hostages are situated will not be attacked. Military operations, we are told by the army are surgical. For our part we continue to pray and hope”: Fides was informed by bishop Edwin De La Pena of the territorial Prelature of Marawi on the Filipino island of Mindanao, reporting on the local situation. The Filipino army continues its siege of a small part of land within the territory of the city, occupied three months ago by Islamist militants claiming loyalty to so-called Islamic State. The bishop says: “even in this situation of pain and destruction with faith we can say that the future of Marawi will certainly be rosy, because all of us together, Muslims and Christians, with the help of so many international donors will rebuild the city and the social fabric woven with interreligious harmony and solidarity”.
The bishop is among the signees of a solemn statement titled “a Cry for peace in Mindanao”, drafted at the end of a meeting organised by the Rome based Sant’Egidio Community, in the presence of Filipino Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, and Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim, president of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, present in Mindanao.
The text speaks of “impotence and indignation” while in the city of Marawi “the numbers of dead, fighters and civilians increase day by day” challenges interconnected with peace in Mindanao include: “violent extremism and terrorism; uncertainty regarding the enactment of the political peace process; the crucial role of religious leaders and communities in the rebuilding and development of Marawi”.
The Christian and Muslim leaders of the Philippines confirm that “the conflict in Marawi is not a war about religion; it is a war on terrorism and violent extremism” and they recall “the many examples of Muslim Christian mutual assistance”. They demand that “education to peace be included in the curricula of every school, madrase and community”, committing themselves to “build a culture of peace based on personal integrity, environment protection, social harmony and the eradication of poverty”. They promise to promote interreligious dialogue, “as a means to understand and appreciate different cultures and religions and further cooperation”.
The statement closes with a call to legislators and government “to give priority to the approval of Bangsamoro Basic Law”, which institutes a new autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao. >>