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'Understanding of history' can correct anti-Muslim biases – envoy

MANILA, Philippines – The "lack of understanding of history" fuels biases against Muslims, British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad said, as the ongoing clashes in Marawi City revive anti-Muslim sentiments in the country.  

In an interview with reporters Wednesday, June 7, Ahmad explained: "If people understand Filipino history, they'll recognize that the Muslims in the Philippines, as well as the Catholics and others, are Filipinos. They have a shared history. They have a lot to learn from each other."

The clashes in Marawi have been raging for more than two weeks. The military said at least 58 government troops and 20 civilians have died after local terrorists attacked Marawi and held hostage at least 100 hostages, including the Marawi bishop's right-hand man, Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub. (READ: Chito Soganub: Hostage-priest in Marawi often mistaken for a Muslim)

In his interview with reporters, Ahmad pointed out that Christians and Muslims in the Philippines "have lived together" closely, and "the missionaries have done great work socially as well as in education."

In the United Kingdom, he added, "you've seen Muslims and Jews praying together for the bereaved" in the recent Manchester terror attack, which killed at least 22 people.

In an earlier with Rappler, Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña noted that "prejudices among us Christians are coming up again." He then urged Christians to put themselves in the shoes of Muslims, who "have suffered enough."

"Let's try to put ourselves in the situation of our Muslim brothers and sisters. They suffer so much. Running away from conflict is not kind of a party. This is not a picnic," Dela Peña said. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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