The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the faithful to pray and help those affected by the crisis in Marawi City.
“Let us pray for the safety of trapped civilians and of those abducted and hostaged by the terrorists…Let us be vigilant and alert, helping our security forces thwart the threats of terrorism in other areas of Mindanao,” said CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a two-page Pastoral Statement issued on Monday after the conference’s Plenary Assembly held in Manila.
He added, “Loving our neighbor needs action. Let us together invest our resources to helping the thousands of people who have fled from the horrors of Marawi.”
At the same time, the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate asked the public to help the government to rebuild the said city and for its people to start anew.
“Let us help the government rebuild the city of Marawi so that its citizens may return and restore their broken lives. With profound gratitude we acknowledge the priceless generosity of kind donors from different faiths, both local and foreign, who promptly responded to meet the needs of the people of Marawi who have fled to safer areas,” Villegas said.
“We appeal for more help especially for those home-based displaced people who are not yet adequately served,” added the CBCP Statement on Marawi, Terrorism and Dialogue.
Villegas also believed that what is happening in the southern part of the country is not connected to religion.
“We believe that the war in Marawi is not religious. We have heard and read truly stunning stories of how Muslims have protected and helped Christians to escape from almost certain death. Even now Christians are assisting thousands of Muslims who have fled from Marawi for safety. These are indisputable signs that there is no religious war,” he said.
The CBCP added, “For this reason as Catholic religious leaders we condemn in the strongest terms possible, as did Islamic religious scholars in Mindanao, the violent extremist Maute group in Marawi. Its leaders and members have pledged allegiance to ISIS. They have contradicted the fundamental tenets of Islam by abducting and hostaging, maiming and killing the innocent.”
With this, the CBCP chief pushed for the holding of intra-faith dialogue with concern groups.
“Join us then, beloved people of good will, in conducting intra-faith dialogue among our respective co-religionists so that our various faiths may not be exploited and abused for the sake of terrorism or violent extremism. Let parents, schools, churches and mosques ensure that none may be lured by the recruitment efforts of terrorists. Let us teach the young and the old that our faiths are meant for peace. No religion teaches the killing of innocent people, simply because they belong to another religion,” he said.
“Join us and let us continue the inter-religious dialogue called for by hundreds of Islamic leaders throughout the world,” Villegas added.
The ongoing conflict between government troops and Maute group started last May 23 resulting in the death of hundreds of people while thousands fled to neighboring provinces.