Christian, Muslim youth hold dialogue in war-torn Marawi

The "Young Muslim-Christian Life Encounter" program aims to broaden the church's peace-building activities
Christian, Muslim youth hold dialogue in war-torn Marawi

Christian and Muslim youths from the Philippine city of Marawi, which suffered a five-month-long armed conflict in 2017, attend a three-day workshop aimed at facilitating inter-religious dialogue in the conflict area. (Photo by Mark Saludes/

For the first time since the conflict in the southern Philippine city of Marawi in 2017, a group of Christians and Muslims gathered for a three-day inter-religious dialogue in the city in the middle of April to help foster peace.

About 30 students joined the activity spearheaded by the Catholic social action secretariat of the prelature to "share life and faith experiences" and "find solid grounds of unity toward peace."

Reynaldo Barnido, executive secretary of Duyog Marawi, said the activity aimed to "plant seeds of peace and harmony among Filipinos of different faiths."

Duyog Marawi, or One with Marawi, is a rehabilitation program of the Catholic prelature and the Redemptorist religious congregation in the war-torn city.

"We focus on our young Muslims and Christians because they are future leaders," said Barnido, "They also represent today's Mindanao," he said. Marawi is part of that same island group.

Thousands of Marawi residents continue to stay in temporary shelters after the conflict last year destroyed most of the structures in the city.

It started in May when Islamic State-inspired gunmen attacked Marawi, left more than a thousand people dead and displaced about 400,000 others.

Organizers of the April 13-15 course say they are helping to shape the future generation in the interests of peace in Marawi.(Photo by Mark Saludes/


Barnido told that while Catholic Church programs provide aid services to the victims of conflict, "it is our main objective to perform a long-term church-based response, which is peace-building."

"We are not here to talk about doctrines or differences of practice and beliefs. Our goal is to share commonalities," said Rayhanah Bantuas, one of the coordinators of the event from April 13-15.

Christian and Muslim religious leaders have expressed optimism that organizing such events among young people will help build peace in the city.

Marawi Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar said the city can still move forward despite harboring scars from the conflict "because we still have our young people."

"The young will bridge the gap between religions and societies. They will achieve what old leaders of this country failed to accomplish," said Sultan Atar.

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Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona of Caceres, head of Caritas Philippines, said raising young people to be peace educators would curb the rise of violent extremism on the island.

"We should show young Filipinos that they are the key stakeholders of the future," said the prelate, who attended the activity.

The event, dubbed "Young Muslim-Christian Life Encounter," is part of a broader peace-building program run by Duyog Marawi, which has 140 volunteers and 40 staff, most of whom are young Muslims.

The church program initially received US$410,000 from other Philippine dioceses and church-based relief agencies.

The program's peace-building efforts have already covered and served at least 20,000 households in 18 Muslim communities in Marawi and nearby towns.

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