REBUILDING MARAWI: A microcosm of our desired transformation of the country  

Al-Qur’an 4:58: “Surely Allah commands you to make over your trusts to whom they are due and when you judge (or govern) between people, you judge (or govern) with justice; surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent; surely Allah is seeing, Hearing.”

 Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

We, leaders of our own spheres of influence in various parts of Mindanao, gathered on July 12 to 14, 2017 in Cagayan de Oro for the Multi-Sectoral Peace Conference convened by the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC).

In the true spirit of a dialogue of life and faith, we shared our thoughts and emotions, fears and worries, as we seek silver linings and rays of hope amid the Marawi crisis which has worn on for over seven weeks now.

We note the gravity of the humanitarian crisis spawned by the siege: over 400,000 people have fled their homes, those from Marawi to escape the crossfire while those from neighboring towns did so to be freed from hunger as food supply in these localities have become scarce as normal trading activities have been bogged down by the raging armed hostilities.

We empathize with the evacuees who have suffered the indignity of observing Ramadan away from the comfort of their homes, and have by now been dying to return to the city.

We pray for the safety of the hostages, and hereby appeal for their unconditional release.

We are worried that the siege has reignited Christian-Muslim tensions. We hope to address this through increased dialogue efforts.

We acknowledge that Islam is the real victim of the Marawi siege and similar activities of violent extremism carried out in its name. It is sad that concepts rooted in this religion of peace are being twisted and given new meanings and interpretations.

We would like to stress that the enemy is not Islam. Neither is this a war of religions.

We recognize that peace education is one best antidote to violent extremism. In this regard, we would like to emphasize the key role of the madrasa system in raising up Muslims that shun violent extremism. If given sufficient policy and material support, the madrasas are potent instruments for combating the social disease that resulted, among others, into the Marawi siege. Apart from religious formation, Muslim youth also need to be empowered and effectively engaged in crafting the future of their communities.

The challenge of rebuilding Marawi is complex.

A strong foundation would be the earnest push forward with the peace process between government and the Moro revolutionary organizations, signified by the implementation of the peace agreements, to the letter and spirit, especially the enactment of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

For us, rebuilding Marawi must not only be about restoring physical facilities, houses and commercial establishments. We believe that building back better the Islamic City of Marawi requires a confluence of local and national government policies, and civil society initiatives that address the underpinnings of the conflict, which are social, economic and political marginalization and exclusion.

For us, rebuilding Marawi means invigorating its socio-political infrastructure, ensuring that the operation of government agencies, whether local or national, truly serves the needs of the people. We believe that violent extremism will be effectively denied space in communities with responsive and responsible governance. Any roadmap for rebuilding must be based on the empowered voices of the Marawi residents.

For us, rebuilding Marawi means restoring broken relationships among peoples and the key institutions for fostering inter- and intra-faith dialogue, and inter-cultural understanding.

For us, rebuilding Marawi is about cultivating a society that embraces social, cultural, political and religious diversity, that is reflective of a national community that is respectful of the aspirations of various peoples.

As it stands, the challenge of rebuilding Marawi is a microcosm of our desired transformation of the country.