Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "My seizure was God's will. A trial He wanted. I trust in him. I see my future only in Marawi: Christians and Muslims are brothers and we believe in the only, unique God": Fr. Teresito Soganub (called "Fr. Chito"), a priest seized on May 23 and released after 117 days of imprisonment by terrorists of the "Maute" group, linked to the Islamic State, which occupied the city of Marawi, on the island of MIndanao. In the city, the Philippine army is strengthing its last efforts to defeat the jihadists that are still barricaded downtown with a group of over 40 hostages.
Fr. Chito, who arrived in Manila, described the days of the kidnapping, noting that he did not want to try to escape, to "share the fate of those kidnapped until the end". The priest thanked the army for their enormous effort and "all those who prayed for us and for our release". Fr Teresito said he sees his future only in Marawi, to continue in the work of dialogue and peace-building: "Christians and Muslims believe in one God, we want to live in peace", he explained.
The Bishop of Marawi, Edwin De La Pena, contacted by Fides, reports that "Fr. Chito will have a period of rest and recovery before resuming his priestly ministry and returning to the Apostolic Prelature in Marawi. "Fr. Chito’s release gives us further hope for the release of the other hostages, including other Catholic faithful", he says. "We hope the war ends soon - he continues - and that the inhabitants of Marawi can return home, rebuild their lives and their city".
That is why the Bishop invites Catholic communities across the country to "adopt a community affected" by the crisis in Marawi, in order to assist local communities on the long-term path to recovery. "The common effort of the entire Philippine Church will communicate a message of hope to all affected communities", notes De La Peña.
The project "To adopt a community" is an initiative of the Apostolic Prelature of Marawi, in collaboration with Caritas Philippines and Redemptorist missionaries. Dioceses and parishes will adopt a community of Marawi, helping all displaced people and providing all the necessities to return to normal social activities, as before the crisis.
The Bishop reports that a special appeal will also be launched to rebuild the Cathedral in Marawi, heavily damaged by jihadists. As reported to Fides, the Apostolic Prelature will present a project to ask for an extraordinary contribution also to the Pontifical Mission Societies. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/9/2017)