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Marawi bishop sees brighter prospects for dialogue

Bishop Dela Penai says Muslim religious leaders have pledged to stem tide of extremism in mosques and schools

 Melo Acuna, Lanao del Norte

Melo Acuna, Lanao del Norte

Published: August 06, 2019 03:19 AM GMT
Marawi bishop sees brighter prospects for dialogue

Bishop Edwin Angot dela Pena of the Prelature of Marawi. (Photo by Angie de Silva)  

The prelate of the war-torn city of Marawi in the southern Philippines expressed optimism that the 2017 siege that devastated his prelature will not be repeated.

Bishop Edwin Angot dela Pena said the conflict, which killed more than a thousand people and displaced close to half a million others, has taught both Muslims and Christians the importance of dialogue.

"Muslims and Christians suffered the same ordeal," said the prelate, adding that the Muslims suffered more than the Christians.

He said since the war, residents of the predominantly Muslim city have realized that each has a role to play to prevent the spread of violent extremism.

Bishop Dela Pena said Muslim religious leaders have also pledged to stem the tide of extremism in schools and in their preachings. 

Terrorist gunmen who claimed allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group attacked Marawi in May 2017, kicking off a five-month conflict.

The gunmen set the Catholic cathedral on fire and stormed the bishop's residence. At least 25 mosques, including the Grand Mosque in the city, were also damaged during the conflict.

Bishop Dela Pena told ucanews.com in an interview that while residents have been allowed to return to "safe areas" in the city, the government's rebuilding plan is wanting.

For its part, the prelature has coordinated with faith-based groups to assist at least 75 families that have been living in makeshift shelters in the past two years.

The bishop said his prelature emphasizes a "dialogue of life and faith" in its response to the requirements of internally-displaced people.
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He said even those working on prelature's projects are young Muslim professionals.

"Muslims and Christians can work together for peace," said the prelate.

Bishop Dela Pena was elected last month to head the interreligious dialogue efforts of the Catholic bishops’ conference.

He will officially assume the post in December, succeeding Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar who retired last year.

Appointed Marawi prelate in 2000, Dela Pena had been working on peace building efforts before the 2017 attack.

He said the most crucial task at hand was to rebuild the peace that Muslims and Christians were working on before the conflict began.

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