Marawi (Agenzia Fides) - "Today we have mixed feelings. We are happy for the end of the conflict in Marawi, because a new era of hope opens up. We are mourning for the deaths of two Catholic students who were taken hostage and died while being held prisoners, in airborne bombings on the city. Other three Catholic women, captured with Fr. Chito Soganub while they were in the cathedral, have been released and are safe.We will now think of the reconstruction of the cathedral but above all of the physical, psychological and spiritual reconstruction of our Catholic community: the lives of the faithful have been devastated, families are displaced and must rebuild houses and recover the livelihoods. We will search for our 2,000 Catholic faithful in Marawi to help them organize their return to the city in order to resume their lives": is what Bishop Edwin de la Pena, who heads the Apostolic Prelature of Marawi says to Agenzia Fides in the aftermath of the siege where the Philippine army fought against 800 militant jihadists who on May 23 invaded the city, causing the escape and displacement of more than 200,000 people.
In past days, the Bishop met with the family of Sam Mangumpit, one of the two Catholic students who lost their lives in Marawi. "These people have great faith and a spirit of resistance that is the fruit of the strength of the Spirit of the Risen Christ", the Bishop says to Fides. Looking at "the good that God knows how to draw also from evil", Mgr. De la Pena notes: "The war generated an enormous mobilization of goodwill, support and solidarity towards us, in the Philippines and abroad. I think the cathedral will be rebuilt with funds and local contributions. The government has included us as recipients of funds for the reconstruction, but I do not think we will need it for the cathedral".
"I am happy and very encouraged - the Bishop adds – thanks to the initiatives of many organizations that are doing their best to raise the funds needed to the difficult task of reconstructing Marawi from the rubble and, above all, of rebuilding the community. We all want to contribute today to building lasting peace. Between Muslims and Christians in Marawi, after this experience of shared suffering, the bond of friendship, solidarity, and mutual support has greatly strengthened".
And if, after exactly five months, on October 23, the Philippine government officially declared the end of the armed clashes with Islamic militants in Marawi, "Islamic extremism remains a threat to Mindanao", said Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato. "It is not excluded that militants can attack or think of building the Caliphate in other areas of Mindanao", said the Cardinal at the conclusion of a recent assembly of Catholic leaders of Mindanao, held in Davao. Jihadist groups such as the “Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters” and “Abu Sayyaf”, who swore allegiance to the Islamic State (Isis), continue to recruit young people in the region, he reported. That is why the government "has to continue to monitor against terrorism and violence", he added.
In their assembly the Bishops also discussed the martial law still in force throughout the island of Mindanao and, as reported by the Cardinal, did not ask President Duterte to suspend it: "There is a lot of fear in Catholic communities, we know that the martial law is a tool to combat terrorism and must be a temporary measure; up till now no facts or abuses have been reported to request immediate suspension", Cardinal Quevedo concluded. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/10/2017)