Updated: July 10, 2017 07:48 AM GMT
Muslims and Christians attend an interfaith prayer for peace in Manila on July 7. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
A Catholic archbishop in Mindanao has decried alleged attempts by some groups to take advantage and "proselytize" displaced residents, many of whom are Muslims, of the besieged city of Marawi.
Archbishop Fernando Capalla, retired prelate of Davao, joined Muslim leaders and peace groups in voicing concern over reports that Bibles are being distributed to refugees.
Copies of the Bible, translated into the Maranao language, were found in relief goods handed to displaced families last week.
Archbishop Capalla warned that the distribution of copies of the Bible along could foment tensions between Christians and Muslims.
"If they do it deliberately, it's either an insult or ignorance of the needs of Muslims," said the prelate who is co-convenor of the interfaith group Bishops-Ulama Conference.
The archbishop said "proselytizing" shows lack of respect and calls into question the sincerity of those who are giving aid to the needy.
"If you want to help, then give only the ... basic needs, like clothing, food, water, among others," said the prelate.
"We should be more sensitive," he said, adding that Muslim leaders in the area should be consulted before distributing aid.
There were also reports that some aid organizations are giving out pork-flavored noodles to the evacuees.
The evacuees claimed they did not immediately discover the Bibles in plastic bags that contained relief goods. There were also aid packs that contained Bible stories, also in the local language.
No group has come forward to admit responsibility.
The non-government group Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute said the act "transgresses some cultural and religious sensibilities."
The rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front described it as "simply exploiting people in times of crisis."
More than 18,300 displaced people are currently being sheltered in 78 evacuation centers in Mindanao, 34 of which are located in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, one in Misamis Occidental, and 43 in Lanao del Sur.
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