Marawi (Agenzia Fides) - "Let us pray for Fr. Chito Suganob, so that he has perseverance in faith and so that the Lord gives him and his friends, who were abducted by terrorists, the grace of strength. Hostages can never be considered 'collateral damage', so we hope the armed forces will do their best to save them. They are our brothers, and we pray for them": says to Agenzia Fides the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Pena, while the siege of Marawi on the Filipino island of Mindanao continues (Fides 26 and 30/5/2017). Government forces have taken almost the whole city, which had been occupied by jihadists, and only about 50-100 militants remain barricaded in the last homes, where there are more than 200 hostages, including women, children, a priest and 15 faithful Catholics. The militants of the Maute terrorist group, linked to the Islamic State, use women and children as human shields, and intend to use them in order to flee.
According to official figures, there have been at least 174 victims of the ongoing conflict since May 23 in Marawi, while the Martial Law declared by President Rodrigo Duterte is still in force on Mindano island.
Meanwhile, even the humanitarian crisis worsens: According to UNICEF, at least 50,000 children have been involved in the conflict and some of them are used by terrorists as combatants. "We are deeply concerned about any action that could endanger the lives and safety of children and disturb their general development or access to basic social services such as education and health", said Lotta Sylwander, head of UNICEF in the Philippines. The conflict could have a serious and long-lasting impact on children's psycho-social health. In the conflict two primary schools of Marawi were destroyed. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 1/6/2017)