Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra: Marawi’s reconstruction starts with women’s involvement

Between May and October 2017, the southern city saw fighting between government forces and an Islamic State-inspired terrorist group. In Mindanao for more than 40 years, the priest is the founder of Silsilah, a movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue. The latest initiatives show that "so many good Maranao and Christians in Lanao to rebuild with hope the broken hearts of many."


Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – The reconstruction of Marawi, a city devastated by last year's Islamist seizure, “starts with Islamic-Christian cooperation, above all by the commitment of Maranao (Muslim) women for dialogue and peace,” this according to the latest experiences promoted by Silsilah, a movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue founded by Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra in 1984.

The missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) has been a priest for more than 40 years, his pastoral work done on Mindanao island, where the country’s Islamic community is concentrated.

Between May and October 2017, the area was saw violent fighting between government forces and Maute, a terrorist group inspired by the Islamic State (IS) that seized Marawi.

"We will remember the siege as a sad history of violence,” Fr D'Ambra said. “Reflecting upon this sad affair, we wish nevertheless to affirm that amid divisions and conflict there is still hope.”

“The violence caused the death of at least 1,131 people and sparked ethno-religious tensions in the area,” Fr D’Ambra said. Nevertheless, “for Silsilah, the experience of the recent past highlights the good will of so many good (Muslim) Maranao and Christians in Lanao to rebuild with hope the broken hearts of many."

On 22 and 23 August, the cities of Iligan and Marawi (in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur) hosted the movement’s latest meetings. Several local community leaders took part, in particular Maranao women, young people, Silsilah coordinators from other cities, as well as old and new supporters.

In Iligan, the conference was held at the Institute for Peace and Development of Mindanao (IPDM), Mindanao State University, in the presence of many alumni, including Fr Teresito "Chito" Suganob, who was held hostage for four months by Maute.

"This also provided an opportunity to launch the Lanao Regional Silsilah Forum," Fr D'Ambra explained. “The following day we relaunched the local Silsilah Forum in Marawi, an initiative that began for the first time in 2009."

"Jamila-Aisha Sanguila was one of the people who most distinguished themselves in the activities,” he said. She teaches Islamic History and was the first Muslim coordinator of the Marawi Forum when it was set up.

"I had met her during my previous visit to the city, on 16 February,” Fr D’Ambra said. “I asked her to help me repeat the experience of the round table. She was ready to accept the challenge and, thanks to her initiative, from that moment Silsilah found new energy and hope for Lanao, especially Marawi."

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