MILF to protect Christians involved in Marawi’s reconstruction
by Santosh Digal

The leader of the group, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, promised to help to the prelature’s programme. He met Mgr Edwin de la Peña, bishop of Marawi, in Rome. The ‘Duyog Marawi’ plan will involve 13 coastal communities near the city. “Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands,” the bishop said.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group is to provide security for a Catholic Church’s outreach programme for people displaced by the crisis in Marawi, Mindanao, southern Philippines.

Archbishop Edwin de la Peña (pictured), bishop of Marawi, the Philippines’ most Islamic city, said that the leader of the group, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, promised to help the programme aimed at reconstruction, healing and promoting peace in the city ​​devastated by conflict.

The Marawi rehabilitation programme (Duyog Marawi) undertaken by the prelature will involve 13 coastal communities near Marawi, the capital of the Province of Lanao del Sur. They are Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Malabang, Balabagan, Picong, Marantao, Balindong, Bacolod-Calawi, Madamba, Ganassi, Calanogas, Marogong, Kapatagan and Tugaya.

These areas were heavily affected by the conflict because residents lost their livelihood and basic services following Marawi’s isolation. The villages also host thousands of people displaced by the fighting.

The programme will also help communities of the State University of Mindanao and the provisional cathedral of Balo-I, consecrated after the devastation of St Mary's Cathedral.

“We will do what we do best – community engagements and opportunities for healing and reconciliation,” the bishop said.

Mgr Dela Peña urged Christian communities to support the people of Marawi and its surrounding areas by helping the Church, the government and other aid agencies.

“It is a critical moment in the history of Muslim and Christian relations in Marawi,” the bishop said. “This will either bring us closer or will widen the gap.”

“The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos, it will benefit all of us – the whole of humanity,” the bishop added. “Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands”. The Maranaos are a local Muslim ethnic group.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is an Islamist armed group based in the island of Mindanao, in the south of the country, where most Filipino Muslims live (about 20 per cent of the overall population).

The Front has sought to establish a separate region for the Moro people, autonomous from the central government. In the past, it has carried out many military and terrorist actions.

The group is currently engaged in peace talks with the Duterte administration and backs government troops in the conflict in Marawi.