Churches pledge united support for survivors of the Battle for Marawi

Philippine troops clear Mindanao city of Islamist terrorists

Christians across denominational boundaries have joined forces in the Philippines to help rebuild the city of Marawi. The joint humanitarian effort will mobilize over 30,000 local churches, national organizations, and international affiliates in responding to the war in Mindanao.

On 23 Oct 2017 Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had eliminated the last terrorist strongholds in the southern island of Mindanao after five months of fierce fighting.

The battle for Marawi began on 23 May 2017 when a gun battle erupted between the security services and guerrillas of the ISIS affiliated Abu Sayyaf group. Police received a tip that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was in the city and was planning to meet with leaders of a second Islamist terror organization, led by Omar Maute group.

The gunfight turned to open war when Maute militants attacked Camp Ranao and occupied the city hall, Mindanao State University, a hospital and the city jail. The city’s Roman Catholic cathedral was attacked and its rector and several churchgoers taken hostage, while a college run by the United Church of the Philippines was burnt down.

Five months of urban warfare ensued, but on 17 Oct 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed victory after Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon were killed. Over 400,000 residents of the region had been driven from their homes and much of the city destroyed in the fighting.

On 19 Oct 2017 the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) released a statement saying that had joined forces with the Roman Catholic Church through NASSA/Caritas Philippines, and the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) to assist in rebuilding efforts and refugee relief.

Jing Rey Henderson, coordinator of Caritas Philippines, said the “main mission” of the alliance of 23 church agencies is to “propel significant efforts in realizing peace and development.” He said “centralization” and use of a common platform for humanitarian aid would avoid overlapping of responses. Fr Edwin Gariguez of Caritas Philippines, said the “fundamental objective” is to help war-torn communities in Mindanao. “Resources are finite, we must have a systematic way of using them,” he said.

“We are happy to see that an alliance between the 3 Christian councils in the Philippines and other FBOs have seen the necessity of working together so as to be relevant and responsive to the needs of our people – particularly those affected by the Marawi crisis. We affirm that collective action and the people’s participation in any action – has significant impact on the life of the people who have been in waiting for a long time,” said Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana of the NCCP.

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