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Christians and Muslims pray amid Marawi’s ruins

MARAWI (UCAN): Led by Father Teresito Soganub, the parish priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral, in the devastated city of Marawi in Mindanao, a group Christians and Muslims held an interfaith prayer service in the ruins of the church and a mosque on July 27.
Marawi which was devastated by a five-month siege in 2017 during which Father Soganub was kidnapped and held hostage by terrorist gunmen. The conflict left a trail of death, destruction, and displaced thousands of people.
“I hope that whatever happens, we can continue to journey together for peace in Mindanao,” the priest said, referring to the rebuilding of places of worship in the city.
He said the Catholic cathedral, which was burned and desecrated by the gunmen, is a Christian symbol of “inter-religious dialogue” with Muslims. “It hurts me to see the church, where I served for years, in ruins,” a teary-eyed Father Soganub said.
The priest, together with Muslim religious leaders, also visited mosques that were damaged during the conflict.
Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi, has already said that the rebuilding of the Catholic cathedral will only take place once mosques are rebuilt in the predominantly Muslim city.
The proposed new cathedral will be built over the ruins of the old church, although the old altar will remain. “The old and the new will be linked to give us hope for the future,” the bishop, who was elected in July as head of the Philippine bishops’ inter-religious dialogue efforts, said.
The Marawi Catholic prelature and the Redemptorist Missionaries have already established a programme to help rehabilitate the city and help promote peace.
Bishop Dela Peña said that the most crucial task at hand is to rebuild the peace that Muslims and the small Christian community have been working on. “Because I am an ‘internally-displaced bishop’ I have been tasked to be the voice of the displaced who have not returned to their homes,” he said.
“We are trying to help them build their homes,” he said.
To date, the rehabilitation of “Ground Zero,” the former main battle area now referred to by the government as the “most affected area,” has yet to start. The government agency tasked with rebuilding the city is still in the process of clearing debris as munitions experts search for unexploded bombs.
The government said at least US$1 billion ($7.74 billion) is needed to rebuild Marawi and its surrounding areas.

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