Message from Bishop Edwin Dela Peña

MOST REV. EDWIN DELA PEÑA, MSP, D.D.

Greetings of Peace at this Easter Season!

The war in Marawi ended last October 2017, but the struggle for peace continues. The peace that comes from dignified survival, recovery, and long-lasting cooperation among the Maranaos and Christians is a long but possible journey.
When Marawi City was destroyed, it displaced 400,000 individuals and 78,466 families. But the whole of Lanao del Sur and nearby towns in Lanao del Norte were affected, reducing the livelihoods and altering the normal life of one million people, majority of which are young, for whom Marawi City was the economic capital, their gathering place for sacred worship, and the symbol of their identity.

The Christians in Marawi is a very small minority. The Prelature of Marawi is one with the people – particularly the Maranaos – in their loss and suffering. Our personnel were held hostage including our dear Fr. Chito Soganub, our Cathedral was reduced to rubbles after being looted and desecrated, and our Christian community are still in diaspora. All our heritage, collections, church records, and structures were burned.

But we remain ONE with the people of Marawi in their hopes and desires to begin the long journey towards recovering and rebuilding their city and the essential tasks of healing, reconciliation and peacebuilding. Duyog Marawi (duyog is Cebuano for accompany) is committed to this partnership by harnessing our resources, our expertise and our connections because the peace in Marawi is not just for Maranaos, it will benefit the whole country. So far, we have served 20,000 families through a combination of food packs, medical mission, psychosocial activities, and protection of children. We work through our Maranao and Christian Youth for Peace Volunteers – 140 young professionals who work tirelessly. But there is still so much to do.

Our thrust is two-fold: in the medium term, we aim to contribute to the rehabilitation of 30,000 families mostly from Ground Zero, including of course our very small Christian minority. But our long-term contribution is in the area of peace education towards Muslim-Christian dialogue. It is our way of preventing violent extremism whose proponents are targeting the young generation of Maranaos. Our program starts when they are in Day Care, up to Kindergarten, then Grade School, High School, and College. Every step of their education, Duyog Marawi aims to provide a dimension on peace education from the perspective of Muslim Christian dialogue. Our hope is to open a Training Institute for Peace Educators, not just for teachers in Mindanao but will welcome students and participants from around the country and the Asian region.

This is the dream we share with Aid to the Church in Need. Thank you.

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