MANILA, Philippines – Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña requested President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, September 19, to allow some displaced Marawi families to return to their city, as he also urged Christians to help Muslim communities there.
"We humbly ask President Rodrigo Duterte to allow some of the displaced families to return home, particularly those who live in secured and government-controlled areas away from ground zero," Dela Peña said in a press conference.
"We trust the government to remain true to their commitment to listen to the voices of the Maranaos and to allow them to take the lead in the rebuilding process," the bishop added.
Marawi City has been the site of clashes between government troops and Maute Group terrorists since May 23. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)
The conflict has displaced 600,000 residents of Marawi and surrounding areas, according to data from the provincial crisis management committee.
"We are hopeful that soon the war will be over, and that the Maranaos can begin to go back home and rebuild their lives and rehabilitate their city," Dela Peña said.
The bishop also urged Christian communities "to continue caring for the Maranaos" by sending support through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, non-governmental organizations, or the Catholic Church.
"This is a critical moment in the history of Muslim-Christian relations in Marawi. This will either bring us closer or will widen the gap," Dela Peña said.
The bishop added: "The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos. It will benefit all of us – the whole of humanity. Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.