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Philippines

Success Story: help for refugees and people who have suffered trauma, in Marawi

Roughly 80% of the population of the Philippines are Catholic. However, in the southern Mindanao island group there is a relatively large number of Muslims. For years now, Islamist terror groups have been trying to establish an “Islamic State of Mindanao.”

In May 2017 several hundred Islamist fighters besieged, occupied and almost destroyed the city of Marawi, which was in fact already a centre of the Muslim faith. They killed many people, took many hostages and extensively damaged the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady. Most of the hostages they took were Christians, and it seems likely that the terrorists even wanted to capture the Bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Peña, who as it happened was not in the city at the time. So instead they abducted the vicar general, Teresito Suganob, and other Catholic faithful. But the Islamists also took a number of Muslims hostage whom they accused of collaborating with the Christians.

For five months the jihadists held Marawi in their power, but eventually the city was liberated by the government army, but leaving still more devastation behind. Thousands of inhabitants were forced to flee the city, most of whom still live in tents or crowded in with relatives.

Healing trauma

 

ACN provided emergency aid for the refugees during the conflict. But now, the most imperative need is to help those traumatized by the conflict. ACN is supporting a project run by the diocese helping some 200 men, women and children who were held prisoner for months and subjected to physical, psychological and spiritual torment. Among them, many women and even young girls, who were raped by their captors. Help is given to Christians and Muslims alike. Thanks to the kindness our benefactors, we were able to give $22,500 towards this project.

Another initiative organized by the local diocese is the “Youth for Peace“ project, bringing 184 Christian and Muslim students to visit refugee camps, where tens of thousands of people who fled the city are still living. The students help the refugees, regardless of their religion, and strive to witness to peaceful coexistence, even after the terrible events of 2017.

For the local Bishop, Edwin de la Peña, dialogue and the rebuilding of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims are an absolute priority. ACN has given $90,000 to help fund this project.