09/19/2017, 14.23
PHILIPPINES
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Mgr Edwin dela Peña: Christians and Muslims for Peace in Marawi

by Santosh Digal

The Church must be a “reconciling presence". We need to build bridges, not division and hate. The Filipino Church and Caritas are committed to the displaced. Young Moro design and sell t-shirts to raise funds.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Many Christians and Muslims are working hard to re-establish peace in the conflict-stricken city of Marawi, as well as the Mindanao region as a whole, said Mgr Edwin de la Peña of the Prelature of St Mary in Marawi.

“The Catholic Church’ mission on Marawi is to be a reconciling presence,” said the prelate. “We respect each other’s culture and faith. Certainly, we are not and will never be happy when either side is put in danger. We need to build bridges of reconciliation and compassion, not division and hate.”

On 23 May 2017, the Abu Sayaff and Maute terrorist groups carried out an attack in Marawi, pushing President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. Marawi is a predominantly Muslim city and the capital of Lanao del Sur province, southern Philippines.

Since May, the Catholic Church has invested 12.3 million Filipino pesos (US$ 240,000) to help more than 3,000 families affected by the conflict in Iligan City, most of whom are Muslim Maranaos.

As of 18 September, more than 800 people have died in the fighting, including 673 terrorists, 149 soldiers and police, and 47 civilians.

On 30 August, the Church launched a 4.8 million peso (US,000) ‘Duyog Marawi’ programme, in partnership with Redemptorist missionaries and the Ranaw Association for Muslim-Christian Dialogue for Peace.

According to a press release by the National Social Affairs Secretariat (NASSA) and Caritas Philippines, the Catholic Church’ efforts are focused on institutional development, community building, and peace and conflict resolution, together with the provision of food and non-food relief, livelihood, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and psychosocial support.

Kind words and concrete expressions of compassion are ways to heal the ongoing Marawi crisis in the southern Philippines, said Fr Edwin A. Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines.

“We all can help lighten the situation in Marawi by exchanging kind and sincere words, instead of derogatory and hurtful remarks,” Fr Gariguez said.

NASSA and Caritas Philippines are the social arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and are committed to development, advocacy and humanitarian outreach.

Meanwhile, some young Muslim Moro volunteers have been selling t-shirts to raise funds to help the Maranaos displaced by the siege of Marawi.

“This is our way of helping [our] Maranao brothers and sisters displaced due to the armed confrontation in Marawi City,” said Bai Ashrafia Alonto Biruar, one of the conveners of ‘We Are Marawi Fundraiser Team’.

Many people are supporting their efforts. Biruar said that ‘We are Marawi’ shirts are currently being produced in the cities of Cotabato, Iligan and Davao.

Volunteers have already bought two batches of relief goods for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Lanao del Norte.

“We were able to give food packs, prayer mats, prayer dress, hygienic kits and toys for the children,” Biruar added.

The group, which includes young Moro professionals and students, is considering a new design for the shirt with more active and positive slogan.

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