Marawi, (is) a town on the island of Mindanao, (that) became famous for infamous reasons. It was occupied (by) jihadist groups linked to ISIS (Islamic State) in 2017 and (then) destroyed as a result of the siege (led) by the army of Manila.
But Fides News Agency on September 5, 2018, reported (a) positive developments for (its) future. The Forum “Silsilah” (which means “chain”), offers (to help the local population in order to) rebirth (in Marawi) the movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue (a movement) founded in the South of the Philippines by (a) missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra.
As reported to Fides by Fr. D’Ambra, in recent days the Silsilah movement has organized two events in the area of Lanao, where Marawi is located, involving the Muslims of the Maranao ethnic group, (the) majority in that province. During the Marawi meetings, “We relaunched the Silsilah Forum after the sad experience of the siege. The participation was encouraging, with the presence of many leaders, especially Maranao women, young people, friends of Silsilah (coming from) other cities (and) new members who intend to become promoters of dialogue and peace”, says Fr. D’Ambra.
The siege of Marawi will be remembered in history as one of the most painful experiences of violence in Mindanao.
“The seeds of violence come from ideologies that use religion as a cover for plans and geopolitical strategies, introduced in the past in Mindanao, through groups such as Abu Sayyaf. The siege of Marawi was (a) Isis strategic plan, (put in place) with the help of a local (armed) group called Maute, the voice of Isis in Mindanao”, recalls the PIME missionary.
With the rebirth of the Silsilah Forum in Marawi, continues Fr. D’Ambra, “we wish to say that there is hope in the midst of divisions and conflicts. Many good Maranos and Christian Muslims from Lanao are ready to rebuild broken hearts. Reconstructing the city of Marawi still remains a question mark, but Silsilah is a witness of good signs of reconstruction in (that) society, starting from the Maranao women, (who are) wishing to recreate harmony and cohabitation”. The head of the Silsilah Forum in Marawi is, in fact, a Muslim woman, Prof. Jamila-Aisha Sanguila, professor of Islamic history who is involved in Silsilah: (she, as a) woman has accepted the challenge of the “new beginning” in Marawi.
“In Marawi, we reaffirmed the spirit of Silsilah, supported by the ‘spirituality of life in dialogue’ and by the culture of dialogue as a path to peace. We recalled the spirit of the ‘great Jihad’ which is the inner journey of purification: the guide(s) (are) the page of the Beatitudes for Christians (and) the teaching of ‘mercy and compassion’ for Muslims. These points are the foundation(s) of the Silsilah movement, (which is a) supporter (an advocate) of a spirituality that embraces dialogue in four directions: with God, with oneself, with others, with creation”, concludes Fr. D’Ambra.
Il 23 maggio 2017 un’azione a sorpresa di militanti islamici del gruppo Maute nella città filippina meridionale di Marawi avviava una battaglia e un assedio che in cinque mesi doveva portare alla devastazione pressoché totale della città e alla fuga di 354mila civili. Oltre mille i morti nella conta finale approssimativa, in maggioranza ribelli ma non senza decine di militari e di civili.
Era facile immaginare che la fine dei combattimenti avrebbe portato a una frattura permanente tra la grande maggioranza musulmana della città – centrale nell’indentità islamica di ampie aree dell’isola di Mindanao e di altre zone dell’estremo Sud – e la minoranza cristiana. Invece, se la violenza dei Maute si è accanita inizialmente proprio contro la Chiesa cattolica, con la devastazione della Cattedrale e il sequestro del vicario episcopale e di decine di cattolici, i rapporti tra le due comunità sono stati solidali e, da parte musulmana, addirittura di protezione verso i battezzati presi come molti tra due fuochi e ugualmente a rischio di rappresaglia da parte dei guerriglieri e dei militari.
Un rapporto positivo rinsaldatosi nelle difficoltà, non potrà che essere benefico anche ora nel difficile tempo della ricostruzione in cui solidarietà e cooperazione sono determinanti. I fondi promessi sono solo in parte disponibili e se l’Autorità per lo sviluppo economico nazionale ha annunciato che la ricostruzione di Marawi costerà almeno un miliardo di dollari, di cui metà utilizzabili entro l’anno, pochi scommettono che tempi e impegni saranno mantenuti. Il tutto mentre 230mila sfollati si trovano ancora in condizioni precarie nei campi profughi di province limitrofe a quella di Lano del Sur, di cui Marawi è il capoluogo. Tutte aree, tra l’altro, in cui le forze armate proseguono le operazioni di rastrellamento contro i militanti sopravvissuti all’assedio e i loro fiancheggiatori, mentre altri gruppi promettono vendetta e, soprattutto, confermano la loro adesione all’autoproclamato Stato islamico in una strategia al momento di tensione, che potrebbe trasformarsi però in ogni momento in un’azione armata improvvisa come lo è stato per Marawi, dove a agire furono solo poche centinaia di uomini dopo una preparazione meticolosa.
In questa situazione, i leader religiosi locali hanno creato un fronte unitario per ostacolare “l’estremismo violento” che rischia di travolgere ogni possibilità di pace duratura. In un un documento-manifesto, Marawi and Beyond (Marawi e oltre), i responsabili delle comunità musulmana e cristiana hanno ricordato l’esperienza di convivenza e dichiarato il loro l’impegno a «ricostruire rapporti di fiducia e assistenza reciproca» sull’isola di Mindanao. Riconoscendo anche l’appello di mons. Edwin de la Peña, che guida la prelatura di Marawi, a tutte le persone di buona volontà «affinché lavorino insieme per la ricostruzione di Marawi».
L’impegno per la ricostruzione non è monopolio del solo sistema pubblico, ma vede coinvolte molte organizzazioni di varia provenienza tra cui la Caritas, che ha assistito le famiglie sfollate da Marawi fornendo mezzi di sussistenza, assistenza alimentare e sanitaria, accompagnamento psico-sociale per i bambini e accoglienza a centinaia di famiglie cristiane e musulmane.
Attiva anche Azione contro la fame, prima organizzazione internazionale ad assistere gli sfollati e ad entrare in città quando è stata dichiarata la fine dell’assedio. «Anche se la battaglia si è ufficialmente conclusa il 23 ottobre 2017 – ricorda Benedetta Lettera, referente regionale di Azione contro la Fame nelle Filippine – il livello di distruzione rende quasi impossibile il ritorno sette mesi dopo e gli sfollati vivono ancora negli insediamenti o nelle comunità di accoglienza, che coprono a malapena i loro bisogni primari. Dipendono infatti dagli aiuti alimentari e dall’acqua acquistata da fornitori privati o fornita da camion-cisterna».
This message comes from Mindanao, Philippines and it is the voice of a Movement that in 1984 started to invite, especially Muslims and Christians, but also people of other living faiths, to build together a “chain”/”link” (Silsilah) of love convinced that all of us are part of the same human family, created by the same God.
This basic concept has been always supported by the spirituality of life-in-dialogue with God, with the Self, with Others and with Creation to promote a sustainable Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace in our society.
This year 2018, we have reflected on our mission in the midst of an increasing violence and conflict in Mindanao, as well in other parts of the world. We are alarmed of many signs of violence, especially among Muslims groups fighting in the name of Islam. This is now an international reality visible also in Mindanao among groups that are fighting guided by their understanding of the “true Islam”.
What appears clear to us is that the victims are the Christians and also Muslims who do not have the same “ideological” understanding of Islam. It was a time when the relation among Christians and Muslims in Mindanao was better even in majority populated Muslim areas like Jolo, in the Southern part of the Philippines. Before the Christians there were free to go to the church and practice their regular Christian life. Now the church in the city of Jolo has to be protected by the military to protect the Christians who are in danger. This and many other alarming stories are the causes of sadness also among good Muslims, commonly called “Moderate Muslims”. They too live in fear because they are not “good Muslims” in the eyes of those who are practicing a more radical understanding of Islam that justifies violence.
In this situation, Silsilah this year in preparation for the 35h Anniversary of the Movement that will be on May 9, 2019, decided to move with more determination guided by the theme: “Silsilah, a sign of hope in the midst of divisions and conflicts”.
In this Holy Month of Ramadhan for the Muslim world, Silsilah wishes to share solidarity with the Muslims and reaffirm the belief that Islam can still contribute in the world today for a better future for all because Islam reminds us, among the many things, the value of prayer, fasting and attention to the needy, especially during the Holy month of Ramadhan.
A Catholic priest who was held hostage for months by militants in southern Philippines urged Filipinos to embrace “reconciliation” as people displaced by war face an uphill battle towards recovery. Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub said any efforts towards peace and rebuilding Marawi city is destined to fail without sincere commitment. At a press conference in Manila on Friday, he stressed the importance of healing by opening a door to people who experienced the tragic reality of conflict.
“For me, that is the real response we can do as Christians. We have to transcend even if the wounds, the pain, and the hurts are still there, fresh and very real,” Soganub said. “But we have to follow the mission of Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross, the way of love,” he said.
The priest spoke about his 116-day ordeal in the hands of the Maute group and the clashes between the group and the government forces. Soganub admitted that he almost gave up hope and was ready to die “but there was no other way but to strengthen my faith”. “It was very hard even if you pray… even your spiritual sanity,” Soganub said. “But it was a test of my faith… I need to strengthen it, no other means.”
Soganub was abducted along with other Christians as militants rampaged through the Islamic city last May 23, torching churches, schools and other structures in a well-planned attack. He and another civilian hostage were rescued by security forces after they escaped from the clutches of the extremists last Sept. 16. A priest for more than two decades of the 42-year-old Marawi prelature, he said the “movement for peace” and interreligious dialogue must continue.
“I support every action for dialogue for the good of Marawi and for the better understanding of the Muslims and Christians,” he said.
‘Let us not forget Marawi’
Soganub was among the speakers as the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines launched its fundraising campaign to help rebuild the city in partnership with Duyog Marawi.
Padre Soganub, un prete cattolico che è stato tenuto in ostaggio per mesi da militanti islamici nel sud delle Filippine, ha esortato i filippini ad abbracciare la “riconciliazione” mentre le persone sfollate dalla guerra stanno ancora affrontando una dura battaglia per il ritorno nelle loro case. Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub ha però detto che ogni sforzo verso la pace e la ricostruzione della città di Marawi è destinato a fallire se manca un sincero impegno. Venerdì scorso, in una conferenza stampa a Manila, ha sottolineato l’importanza di guarire le ferite provocate dal conflitto aprendo prima di tutto una porta alle persone che hanno vissuto in prima persona questa tragica realtà.
“Per me, questa è la vera risposta che possiamo dare come cristiani. Dobbiamo andare avanti nella ricostruzione anche se le sofferenze, il dolore e le ferite sono ancora molto visibili e palpabili “, “Ma dobbiamo seguire la missione di Gesù Cristo, cioè la via della croce che è anche la via dell’amore”, ha poi ripetuto.
Il sacerdote ha poi raccontato del suo calvario di 116 giorni nelle mani del gruppo Maute e degli scontri tra il gruppo e le forze governative.
Soganub ha ammesso di aver quasi abbandonato la speranza in quei giorni ed era pronto a morire tuttavia doveva resistere e “… ma non c’era altro modo se non rafforzare la mia fede”. “È stato molto difficile, anche se pregavo … anche se la mia sanità mentale-spirituale era ancora forte …”, ha detto Soganub. “Ma è stata una prova per la mia fede … obbligandomi a rafforzarla. Non c’era altro mezzo.”
Padre Soganub è stato rapito insieme ad altri cristiani mentre militanti islamici assaltavano la città, a maggioranza musulmana, di Marawi lo scorso 23 maggio, incendiando chiese, scuole e altre strutture in un attacco ben pianificato. Lui e un altro ostaggio sono stati salvati dalle forze di sicurezza dopo essere fuggiti dalle mani degli estremisti lo scorso 16 settembre. 42 anni e prete della prelatura di Marawi da circa 20 anni, Soganub ha detto che “il movimento per la pace” e il dialogo interreligioso devono continuare. “Appoggerò sempre una azione per il dialogo, per il bene di Marawi e per una migliore comprensione tra musulmani e cristiani”. ‘Non dimentichiamo Marawi’, ha infine esortato.
Dopo oltre quattro ore di dibattito, il Congresso ha dato il via libera alla richiesta del presidente Rodrigo Duterte di estendere la legge marziale nell’intero Mindanao per un altro anno, dal 1 ° gennaio 2018 al 31 dicembre 2018.
Il Senato ha votato con 14 voti a favore contro 4 mentre la Camera dei rappresentanti ha votato 226 a favore contro 23 per l’estensione della legge marziale.
Lo scorso 23 maggio, Duterte aveva imposto la legge marziale in Mindanao con il Proclama 216 dopo che il gruppo terrorista dei Maute ispirato dallo Stato islamico aveva attaccato la città di Marawi e tentato di stabilire un califfato nella stessa città. Quasi due mesi dopo, il Congresso aveva approvato la richiesta del presidente Duterte di estendere la legge marziale in Mindanao fino al 31 dicembre 2017. 20 giorni prima della scadenza Duterte ha nuovamente chiesto di estendere per un altro anno la legge marziale citando le persistenti minacce di terrorismo e ribellione nella regione.
Protesters held placards showing images of Maguindanao Massacre victims during a protest near Malacanang Palace in Manila on November 23, 2015, condemning the slow-paced trial of those accused in the massacre, to mark the 6th anniversary of the worst political massacre of the country. Now, on its 8th year, justice is still elusive for the families of the 58 victims. (AFP) EIGHT years after the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre, the government made a pledge to resolve the case in another four years to attain justice for the families of the 58 victims. Undersecretary Joel Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), said Wednesday that the Duterte government would keep an eye on the developments concerning the ghastly deaths of the 58 individuals, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao. Egco said they received assurance from the Department of Justice, particularly from Justice Assistant Secretary Juvy Manwong, that justice will be served under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte because the proceedings against the accused are “moving.” “The PTFoMS will keep a close watch and strictly monitor the progress of the judicial process regarding the Maguindanao massacre,” he said. “Manwong estimated that at the rate the trial is moving, the case may be resolved in four years, or well within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, based on the assumption that the defense will present an equal number of witnesses as that of the prosecution,” Egco added. The country on Thursday, November 23, commemorated the Maguindanao massacre, which claimed the lives of 32 media practitioners, the wife of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, and 25 others. The victims were in a convoy towards Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, where Mangudadatu was to file his certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections. Nearly 200 people, including 15 surnamed Ampatuan, were implicated in the massacre. Of the total, 115 individuals have been arrested while 81 are still at large. Of the 115, three became state witnesses making the actual number of the accused, arrested and arraigned, 112. Four have since died in prison while two are out on bail. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who joined Egoc at the press conference, said the executive department was optimistic that the judiciary would live up to its vow to work for a speedy resolution. “We’re hoping that earlier than the four years mentioned by the Undersecretary (Egco), there could be at least one or two accused who will have the promulgation of judgment,” Roque, who served as the lawyer of relatives of the slain journalists, said. “The President remains committed to accord justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and to all victims of illegal drugs in our country,” he added. Lawyer Nena Santos, who represents relatives of the victims, earlier said they were looking at partial conviction next year. Egco said the PTFoMS has requested Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa and National Bureau of Investigation director Dante Gierran to intensify manhunt operations against those still at large. Egco said they have been seeking “an end to impunity, speedier trial, partial judgment, and intensified manhunt for those suspects still at large.” “The good news is after a long and tedious search for justice, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. That long period of uncertainties is finally over. Hoping against hope, we expect justice to be completely served for the victims and families of this most gruesome crime,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato strongly condemned another attack, on November 10, of the Catholic chapel in Barangay Labu-Labu, Shariff Aguak, in Maguindanao. In a statement Tuesday, the cardinal lamented how unidenfitied men set ablaze the chapel and “maliciously” destroyed religious statues.
“This criminal act is an abhorrent desecration of a place of Catholic worship,” Quevedo said.
Investigations are ongoing into the religious vandalism of an old chapel that took place on the evening of November 9. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on the chapel located along the national highway. The cardinal said the destruction of the statues is “gravely disrespectful” of Catholic beliefs.
“Such a crime is most disturbing and provocative,” Quevedo said, as he expressed hope that the incident won’t affect the “harmonious” relationship between Muslims and Christians in the area.
He urged the public, government officials, and the archdiocese’s partners in the Bangsamoro peace process to help the security forces in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Last June 23, suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked a chapel in Pigcawayan town, North Cotabato, and destroyed not only religious icons but also desecrated the Sacred Hosts. The church leader also called on religious leaders to condemn such abuses and “prevent religious bigotry, hostility and conflict”. The cardinal then enjoined the clergy, the religious, and the lay faithful “to be always alert to the ongoing threats of violent extremism”.
“Be calm. Despite provocation, follow the Lord’s injunction of peace and not revenge,” he said. CBCPNews
Dopo cinque mesi di scontri, che hanno provocato più di 800 militanti islamici e 162 soldati governativi uccisi, sembra essere tornata la pace nella città di Marawi. Durante i combattimenti, circa 1700 ostaggi sono stati salvati, inclusi gli ultimi 20 ieri 16 ottobre. Molte le case e i quartieri distrutti e da ricostruire e più di 350.000 residenti accampati nelle aree circostanti. Non è confermato, ma fonti governative hanno riferito che i due protagonisti e principali terroristi – Ipsilon Hapilon e Omar Maute – sono stati uccisi in un combattimento a fuoco, durato quattro ore, dalle forze governative. Hapilon era il leader del gruppo terroristico di Abu Sayyaf poi nominato, o autonominatosi, emiro del gruppo Isis del sud-est asiatico. Omar Maute era invece uno dei due capi militari del gruppo Maute, insieme al fratello Abdullah. Il presidente Rodrigo Duterte, comunque, ha riaffermato che la legge marziale in tutta Mindanao, rimane estesa sino alla fine dell’anno, nonostante la questione sulla sua costituzionalità.
I write this open letter as a friend in solidarity with you who suffer for what is going on in our beautiful land of Mindanao. I dare to say “our beautiful land” even if I am Italian, but I have been in Mindanao since 1977 and I am still here in Zamboanga. This gives me the courage to write this letter to you as Muslim religious leaders. It is the humble voice of a Christian religious leader who journeys with you in this sad time of our life in Mindanao. I was in the seventies a negotiator for the MNLF in the area of Zamboanga Del Norte. I have studied and taught Islam in Italy. After a sad experience in the early eighties in my efforts to defend the Muslim communities in my mission of Siocon, Zamboanga Del Norte, I started in 1984 the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City. I have also been the national secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for the mission on Interreligious dialogue. At that time I helped to start the Bishops Ulama Forum that is now called Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC).
These and many other experiences in the Philippines and other countries didn’t stop me to be with you in Mindanao, Yes! I continue my mission here, even if I lost my dear friend, Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME in 1992 in Zamboanga City killed in his mission of dialogue and peace. I also lost other friends and alumni of Silsilah killed in Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-tawi areas along the years for the same mission.
This letter is, first of all, a sign of solidarity with many of you Muslim religious leaders who are agonizing in this situation and time. Some of you continue to say that those who do terrorism are not Muslims because Islam is a religion of Peace. But allow me to remind you that there are also those who bring the name of Islam, especially now as Abu Sayyaf, ISIS, Maute groups doing acts of violence and terrorism. They are usually young people who claim to be Muslims and even dare to say that they are more faithful Muslims than you to the point that they also threaten you. Some of you are afraid to face this situation and others, unfortunately, play a double game, most of the time to save their lives or to have advantages in this situation. Indeed, all of us suffer and I appeal to you to save Islam and Mindanao from the hands of those who use Islam pushed by some foreign or local player behind this sad situation.
On the part of the Christians, there is fear that becomes hatred in many cases. What can we do? How can we build peace in this situation? How can the government implement the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) in this stage of terror covered by beautiful promises, often presented in a form of humanitarian assistance and solidarity on the part of some politicians and other local and international groups? We cannot be blind anymore of many killings, massacres, cutting of the heads, often done saying “Bismillah” (in the name of God).
Allow me to say that the situation is alarming in Mindanao and I appeal to your courage, sense of responsibility and love for the real message of peace of Islam. Do not be contented only of gestures of goodness that we see here and there to prove the goodness of Islam. I too can testify to so many signs of goodness among Muslims and I treasure them and I continue in my mission with hope and love for all.
I am with you and other good Muslims and Christians who continue the mission of love with Silsilah and other groups who do their best to build peace, but it is not enough. I wish to see more courage on your part. Do not be afraid. The Holy Qur’an reminds you: “O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes that you may know each other. Truly, the most honored of you before God is the most pious of you.” (Surah 49:13) Well, you have the chance to save lives in many ways as Muslim religious leaders. If you do not act with a sense of urgency now others who claim to be Muslims continue to oppress and kill and are ready to be killed, guided by their belief that doing so they can go to paradise.
Please receive this open letter as a sign of friendship and great respect for your religion and for the many Muslims of Mindanao that are suffering. Silsilah will continue its mission. I will also do my part, but please do more together in a form of Ijma (consensus) for the common good of all. This is my hope and prayer. Padayon!
Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME
Founder of Silsilah Dialogue Movement
“The Prelature of St. Mary’s in Marawi welcomes the news that Fr. Teresito ‘Chito’ Soganub, its Vicar General, has been rescued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at around 11 p.m. last night, September 16, 2017 near Bato (Ali) Mosque in Marawi City together with one other undisclosed companion,” its press statement read.
It said the entire Duyog Marawi team, an accompaniment journey with the people of Marawi by the Prelature in partnership with the Redemptorists, “exploded with shouts of joy” in the midst of its monthly meeting as Fr. Nono Reteracion, CSsR “read the confirmation from several military personnel.”
Initial reports reaching the media said Soganub, also Acting Rector of the St. Mary’s cathedral and chaplain at the Mindanao State University (MSU) main campus here, and another hostage escaped from their captors near the Bato Ali mosque amid heavy firefight and that as the two were fleeing, they were identified by the military who brought them to a safer place.
Persistent media queries prompted Marine Colonel Edgardo Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office to tell Defense reporters in the national capital shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday that they were “still validating that information. As of now, we cannot still give details. The rescue operation is still ongoing,”
Marawi, Day 117
The military announced through a press release late Saturday evening that the troops had taken control of the Bato Mosque and Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation at 5 p.m. These two structures the military said were Maute strongholds But where are the hostages?
In a statement sent to the Defense Press Corps at 11:41 p.m. on Saturday, Arevalo said the military had “fiercely fought five hours” before taking control of Bato Ali mosque and Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation (JIMF) at 5 p.m. The military described these as “two of the Maute-ISIS Group’s strongholds.”
Questions have been raised by the media and the public if Fr. Chito escaped, was rescued by the military, was abandoned or released by the Maute Group, if leaders Abdullah Maute and the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon, the alleged Southeast Asian Emir of the ISIS, are still in Marawi or have escaped.
A resident who was watching the air strikes on the main battle area in downtown Marawi from the MSU golf course here Sunday noon told MindaNews he hopes the fighting will, indeed be over soon.
But the resident, among the 359,680 persons displaced by the war, according to statistics of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said they hope they will not be told that Marawi has been liberated but the terrorists escaped.