Groups say ​Marawi crisis, peace in Mindanao interconnected

Sep. 28, 2017

Philippine Marines patrolled the highway of Barangay Bubong Madaya on Aug. 30. The village became the main battle area between government troops and the ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City for more than three months. The only Islamic City in the Philippines was completely destroyed 100 days after the fighting. (Divina M. Suson/

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The ongoing conflict in Marawi City and the consequent displacement of thousands of civilians can be linked to many factors affecting the situation in Mindanao, a multi-sectoral group composed of Christian and Muslim leaders said.

“Marawi dramatizes for us three interconnected challenges to peace in Mindanao: violent extremism and terrorism; the uncertainties of the implementation of the political peace process; and the crucial role of religious leaders and communities in the rebuilding and development of Marawi,” said the collective group ​in a joint statement released to the media on September 28.

The Marawi crisis began on May 23 when authorities attempted to serve an arrest warrant for Isnilon Hapilon, a known leader of the terror group Abu Sayyaf.

On that same day, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte put the entire Mindanao under martial law as armed militants composed of Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freed Fighters waged a war with the government forces.

The Marawi conflict has already displaced more than half a million civilians, with close to a thousand people already killed.

The manifesto was signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, the head of the ​Catholic archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City​; Most Reverend Edwin de la Peña, the bishop prelate of Marawi; Mona Liza Pangan, a witness from Marawi; Dr. Said Zamahsari Salendab, secretary general of the Hayatul Ulama; Dr. Ustadz Abdulmuhmin Maujahid, executive director of the Regional Darul Ifta in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Dr. Mauro Garofalo, head of international relations of the Community of Sant’Egidio’; and Prof. Alberto Quattruci, secretary general of Peoples and Religions, also of the Community of Sant’Egidio.

The statement was written following the group’s visit to ​the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, Italy, for a dialogue on peace in Mindanao, recently.

In the statement, the group released its seven declarations. First in the declaration is its belief that the conflict in Marawi is not a religious war but of terrorism and violent extremism.

“The many stories of mutual assistance between Muslims and Christians attest to the rejection of this evil. These stories of solidarity likewise attest to the Filipinos’ sense of sharing a common humanity with anyone in need, regardless of creed or community.

They also believe that Islam and Christianity are religions of peace as they call for the inclusion of “peace education at all levels in our schools, madaris and communities.”

“We need to build a Culture of Peace based on personal integrity, respect for human rights, inter-cultural dialogue, care for the environment, peaceful coexistence and eradication of poverty,” the group said.

Inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue, they said, should be promoted as a means of understanding and appreciating other cultures and religions and enhancing cooperation. “This dialogue must move from the highest level to the grassroots level of society. Dialogue starts with self-examination to remove biases and prejudices.”

The group also welcomed the current efforts at writing a more inclusive history of Mindanao that explores the root causes of conflict and depicts significant events and personalities from Muslim and indigenous people communities.

“We commit ourselves to reach out to our youth, who will be the future leaders of our Mindanao communities. They have so much to contribute towards building our communities with a renewed vision of Mindanao as our shared homeland,” they said.

Likewise, the group has appealed to the legislators in Congress and government officials to prioritize and expedite the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law as it provides a positive alternative to violent extremism.

Also, the group fully endorsed the call of “Duyog Marawi” (Accompany Marawi), spearheaded by the city’s Prelature of St. Mary together with local government units and civil society organizations.

“The united efforts of volunteers of different faiths are the best example of working and living together in peace and solidarity,” they furthered. (

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