Mindanao interreligious groups call for anti-hate campaign amid Marawi siege

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/02 June) — The Interreligious Solidarity for Peace and the Zamboanga Peace and Security Forum on Friday said there is a need to “quell the fires of hatred” among others to hasten the healing process amid the ongoing armed conflict between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi City.

The groups noted the efforts of Muslim residents protecting Christians from the threat of the Maute group.

“While these events have manifested the worst of the self-styled oppressors and threat groups that have hostaged [sic] the residents of Marawi, they have brought out the courage and peace-loving character of our people.

“Muslims protecting Christians in ways that show that we are One Mindanao, even as the spirit of Ramadan inspires our Muslim brothers and sisters towards special protective actions to shield terrified Christians against the dangers of detection and possible annihilation,” the groups said.

The military confirmed that the Maute members executed several civilians for failing to recite Islamic prayers during the siege.

The interreligious groups expressed the need to “strengthen…interreligious bonds by” helping quell the fires of hatred, divisive labeling, and counter-productive blaming.”

They also called to understand and analyze “the complications of the conflict and the dynamics of societies sharing different identities and ways of life and appreciating the life-giving factors of peace in all our religious and cultural traditions.”

The armed conflict in Marawi started on May 23 when a combined team of military and police operatives raided a suspected hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilion Hapilon and Maute leaders.

The conflict escalated when the ISIS-inspired group seized several roads and establishments in downtown Marawi.

Around 70 percent of Marawi residents had fled the city as of Wednesday. The city has a population of 201,785 based on the 2015 census of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

As of Friday, military sources placed the death toll at almost 200 with 120 suspected Maute members killed.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law on the same day the conflict erupted.

Earlier, the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines urged Duterte “to cease immediately the airstrike but to employ land attack with the help of local military and police so that innocent civilians will be protected and escorted to evacuation centers.”

The group also appealed for President Duterte to order line agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Health to respond to the humanitarian needs of the internally displaced persons.

“This is the time, Mr. President, to show us what you’ve been saying that you have a Maranao blood, and that, that you are sincere to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moros,” the group said. (Darwin Wally T. Wee/MindaNews)