What’s next for Marawi?
Bishop sets out his priorities in wake of five-month war against extremists
Bishop Edwin de la Peña believes that reconciliation is vital in Marawi, the city in southern Philippines which was devastated by a five-month siege mounted by Islamist extremists affiliated with Daesh (ISIS).
Speaking barely six weeks on from the Philippines government declaring victory over the terrorists, Bishop de la Peña of Marawi said his immediate priority is a series of initiatives to rebuild peace in his Prelature and help those affected by war. It is for these reasons that Bishop de la Peña has asked for the support of the global community of the Catholic Church.
The Prelature’s plan is to invite and engage Marawi residents and train them to become “peace catalysts.” Participants are set to undergo training modules covering peace education, dialogue and inter-faith harmony. Many of these programs are geared toward Muslim teenagers in order to protect them from what the Bishop calls as “the persuasive tentacles of extremism.”
Aside from training for the youth, there will also be peace education lessons and the conduct of theatre-based healing sessions for very young children especially since the Bishop believes young people are more receptive to stories of peace and harmony among religions.
The Prelature also seeks to establish a healing centre for many who are traumatized by the wounds of war. The centre will employ a combination of psychological and culture-based approaches to healing and wellness.
Despite the many challenges that await him, Bishop de la Peña only has lofty dreams for his Prelature. The Bishop hopes to have more people helping his programs despite apprehensions that these may lack support given that many of his proposals are intangible.
“It is easier to ask for support for building infrastructure, but the real foundation of this city must be built in the hearts of its people,” said Bishop de la Peña
The bishop’s proposals have been received by ACN and a team will be developing them over the coming months.
“My only commitment is that Bishop de la Peña will not be let alone in the next months. Our project department will develop with the Bishop specific projects that can be done for Marawi,” said ACN’s Secretary General Philip Ozores, who visited Malawi in December.
Last September, ACN gave an initial €20,000 for emergency relief services to the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) of Marawi. After the last visit, the organization officially became a partner of the Prelature in its post-war campaign and projects for the people of Marawi.
Josemaria E. Claro – ACN Philippines