ACN Philippines and Duyog Marawi Launch Campaign to Help Rebuild Prelature of Marawi and its People

Ten months after Marawi was seized by terrorist forces, Aid to the Church in Need Philippines and Duyog Marawi formally launched their campaign to help rebuild the prelature of Marawi and its people on March 23, 2018 at the Arzobispado de Manila, in the Intramuros district of Manila. Although ACN began providing help in the earliest stages of the conflict and Duyog Marawi activated its system at the same time, the launch formalized their partnership and commitment.

Through the media launch ACN Philippines and Duyog Marawi presented its plans and programs to address the various needs of the  city’s half a million people  displaced and about 80,000 families affected. Speaking at the launch Prelature of Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Pena said that although the Christians in Marawi comprise a very small minority, the prelature is one with the people—particularly the Maranaos—in their loss and suffering.

Duyog Marawi (duyog is Cebuano word that means “accompany”), he said is committed to the partnership with ACN, who has been helping Marawi soon after the outbreak of the conflict. ACN joins Duyog Marawi in its two-fold thrust that was enunciated by Bishop dela Pena as: first, contributing to the rehabilitation of 30,000 families mostly from Ground Zero (the center of the battle in the city) and second, to work in the area of peace education towards Muslim-Christian Dialogue.

For his part, Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines director, said that Pontifical Foundation will help in five areas summarized in the acronym HILOM (which in Filipino means HEALING):

H – ealing. ACN will support all psycho-social healing programs of the Prelature for the affected Maranaos and most especially to the survivors of the hostage-taking during the six-month siege. These programs will employ culture-based approaches to healing and wellness for local communities.

I – nterfaith Dialogue. ACN seeks to support the various programs of the Prelature to rebuild the fruits of interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians. These will be done through peace education, dialogue and communications.

L – ivelihood support for Maranaos and Christians. As the city center of Marawi is still closed to its former residents, many of its former settlers are without sustainable income. ACN will work with the Prelature in coming up with livelihood support for the residents until they could either start a new business or return to their original means of livelihood once the city center is re-opened.

O – ne in worship. ACN will help rehabilitate the chaplaincy located in the Mindanao State University and will provide a Chapel Truck.

M – ovement for Peace. Through peace education the movement aims to foster deeper mutual understanding among Christians and Muslims in the region.

Juhaira Saidali, a Muslim volunteer in Duyog Marawi reported during the launch the activities that the prelature’s social action arm has been undertaking. Through its 148 Maranao and Christian young professionals, Duyog Marawi has served thousands of families in several communities by providing shelter assistance, water, and aids for sanitation and hygiene; livelihood, food relief, medical mission, psychosocial support services, trauma therapy, peace education and promotion of inter-faith dialogue. It also runs a therapeutic and recovery program for Christians who were held hostage by the ISIS forces.

One of the early hostages of the Marawi siege is Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub. Along with 120 others he was held captive until the city was liberated. During his captivity, Father Chito said that the situation of being under constant threat of a bullet was deeply excruciating for him and his prayer daily was for strength to have faith.

ACN will help Father Chito and the hostages by supporting the program for their healing and rehabilitation.

Unable to be present at the launch, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of ACN Philippines sent a message. The campaign, he said, is an appeal for prayers for the healing of Marawi; an appeal for funds to help rebuild the ruined homes in Marawi; and is a call for peace-loving peoples never to allow the Marawi war ever to happen anywhere else again.

Local, foreign and Church media attended the launch. Also present were Brother Reynaldo Barnido, director of Duyog Marawi, and Ms. Julieta Wasan, president of Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, the organization of all lay and transparochial associations, mandated organizations and clubs.


By: Peachy E. Yamsuan/ACN Philippines

ACN accompanies Bishop De La Peña’s first visit to Destroyed Marawi Cathedral

After several failed attempts, Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña was finally able to revisit the ruined city center of Marawi and the remnants of a desecrated Cathedral that he used to call home.

Upon his entry to the Church, the Bishop quietly knelt before the altar where he celebrated the Holy Mass for 17 years. He then proceeded to the beheaded statue of Maria Auxiliadora (Mary Help of Christians), to whom the Cathedral is dedicated to. Above the Bishop is the image of Jesus Christ crucified, face mangled and disfigured when it was violently brought down by ISIS-inspired terrorists. Philippine soldiers re-hoisted the image with ropes and nylon wires when they celebrated Mass last 1 October 2017.

The city center of Marawi continues to be a heavily-restricted area. The residents are still not yet allowed to return to their ancestral homes. En route to the cathedral, the ACN delegation, accompanied by military escorts, passed by eerie and abandoned streets ghostly  buildings, mosques and family mansions severely damaged by the war.

Standing at the site of the cathedral entrance and fronting his destroyed residence, the Bishop could only mutter a few words.

“So many memories. We were the ones who built this. Now, everything is destroyed, even the trees we planted are riddled with damage from bullets and mortar,” de la Peña said.

The Bishop then asked the delegation to go back to the altar where he asked everyone to gather in a circle, hold hands and then led in the praying of the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be.

Duyog Marawi

Back to reality, the Bishop then met with volunteers and partners of Duyog Marawi, the social action program set-up by the Prelature to respond to the post-war needs of the residents of Marawi. Duyog in the local language means to accompany.

The team is led by a few priests, nuns and Catholic lay leaders who have worked for Caritas. But the bulk of volunteers are young Muslim residents of Marawi.

For the past three months, these volunteers have been reaching out to the war-affected residents and IDPs living on the outskirts of Marawi. The youth have volunteered to man help desks documenting the grievances of the locals. More importantly, they have conducted humanitarian campaigns and peace education sessions in different Muslim communities.

According to the Prelature’s assessment, the government, media, and the public are underestimating the consequences of the dire situation in the region. Even before the war, Lanao del Sur is already the most impoverished region of the country. Now, as the locals are deprived of an economic center, residents in adjacent towns, as well as IDPs, wallow in poverty and neglect. This was further aggravated by a tropical storm that hit the region just last month.

“This is fertile ground for terrorist recruitment. We can confirm that families in far-flung towns are being offered ₱40,000 (est. €650) and a water buffalo in exchange for attendance to a recruitment session. Terrorists then indoctrinate children and teenagers with extreme interpretations of Islam and eventually train them in military warfare,” said Bro. Reynaldo Barnido, Executive Director of Duyog Marawi.

“With the government focused on peace-keeping and rebuilding efforts and the international community prevented from doing humanitarian work due to a non-declaration of a level 3 emergency by the Philippine President, Duyog Marawi serves as the only alternative voice advocating for peace and harmony in these very difficult times,” added Mr. Barnido

As the lives of many families are in limbo due to the lack of livelihood and permanent residence, volunteering for Duyog Marawi is also an opportunity for Muslim youth to counter the message of conflict, disillusionment, and resentment that is pervading Muslim communities in the region.

“Truly, Duyog Marawi is an opportunity to partner with Christians in meaningful and productive work. It is the only hope that keeps us going is Duyog Marawi, said Hidaya Sultan and Naif Alawi who are both Muslim volunteers of the Prelature’s Duyog Marawi.

Communicating closely with the Muslim leaders, Bishop de la Peña said Muslims are realizing through Duyog Marawi that they need Christians in this period of rebuilding. Conversely, the Bishop acknowledges Christians also need the protection and support of Muslims for Duyog Marawi to be successful.

“We are now at this point where both Christians and Muslims have come to realize that they need each other to move forward,” the Bishop said.

Bishop de la Peña then summed up the dramatic day by looking back on his trip and finding hope in the collaboration being promised by the partners and volunteers of Duyog Marawi.

“While visiting Marawi earlier, all I could think about was how to start again with all this destruction. But as I talk to you, I know there’s a brighter tomorrow because before me now is the future of Marawi.”


ACN is an official partner of Duyog Marawi. Last August 2017, ACN has already donated €20,000 for emergency relief of Marawi IDPs and is currently working with the Bishop to support more projects in the coming months.


ACN Philippines

Fr. Soganub: “I continue to believe in inter-religious dialogue”

Updated: 18 September, 9 p.m.

A smiling Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub was presented this afternoon during a press briefing by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The priest was immediately excused by defense officials. However, before his exit, Fr. Soganub was allowed to give a short statement where he asked for prayers for a quick recovery from the traumatic experience that he underwent for the last 117 days as a hostage of a religious extremist group.


Fr. Soganub’s rescue happened at 11:45 P.M. of Saturday evening as the military sought to clear the Bato Islamic mosque, one of three mosques considered as strongholds of the terrorists. The mosque was successfully retaken by the soldiers.


In an interview conducted by one of the local government officials of Marawi, Fr. Soganub maintained the importance of the Marawi Prelature’s mission in engaging the Muslim community in inter-religious dialogue.


“To the Muslims of Marawi and Lanao del Sur, I still believe that we can still be united  as Muslims and Christians. We are not enemies, we believe in one God,” said Soganub.


The priest also thanked the AFP for his successful rescue.


Yesterday, Bishop Elenito Galido of Iligan, a diocese 37 kilometers away from Marawi also thanked the soldiers who rescued Fr. Soganub.


“This is really good news. I thank the soldiers who rescued Fr. Chito and the teacher from Dansalan College. We are very pleased, this is an answered prayer because we have been praying for him every day. Now, they are free. Thanks be to God,” Bishop Galido said in an interview with Radio Veritas, a Catholic radio station.


During the Press Briefing, the military revealed Fr. Soganub did not experience any physical abuse, but there were times during heavy firefight when he was forced to carry firearms and pose like one of the terrorists.


Fr. Soganub is the Vicar General of the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city in Central Mindanao, the southernmost archipelago of the Philippines. The Prelature of Marawi was created by Pope Paul VI to offer a hand of reconciliation to Filipino Muslims who were victimized by the abuse of government forces when the nation was under Martial Law.


Last 23 May 2017, the city of Marawi was laid siege by more than 700 armed men who professed allegiance to Daesh (IS). According to the Philippine government, a total of 47 civilians, 149 government troops, and 673 terrorists have been killed in the ongoing conflict. The government also declared that there are 359,680 persons displaced by the war.


There are no updates about the remaining fifty hostages, around twenty of which are staff of the St. Mary’s Cathedral.




By Josemaria E. Claro, ACN Philippines


Photo: Chito Suganob/Facebook



After more than three months, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has finally cleared and retaken the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City.

The Cathedral was desecrated and destroyed by ISIS-inspired terrorists last 23 May 2017. The Philippine Armed Forces had to empty the church of improvised explosive devices. The AFP has also released footages of the remnants of the Cathedral.

The said video revealed bullet-ridden walls of the Cathedral and fragments of destroyed icons and other adornments of the church scattered on the floor. The altar of the cathedral was completely ravaged, and a beheaded figure is the only statue left standing inside the facility.

Along with the Cathedral, the Philippine soldiers were also able to clear the Grand Mosque, the largest place of worship for Muslims living in Marawi City. Although it was not as devastated as the Catholic cathedral, the Army disclosed that the terrorists dug holes and tunnels beneath the sacred site and made holes on the mosque’s walls to engage government forces in firefight.

For the past three months, the military has conducted extensive bomb raids on the city of Marawi, but it has deliberately refrained from bombing mosques as a sign of respect to the Maranaos, the Muslim ethnic group that called Marawi City its home for centuries. This move, however, was exploited by the terrorists who made the mosques as fortresses against the Philippine soldiers.

According to Norodin Alonto Lucman, one of the Maranao chieftains, it is forbidden for Muslims to use mosques as launching sites for activities harmful to Muslims and non-Muslims.

“This only shows how these people do not respect any religion may it be Christian or Muslim,” said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief of the West Mindanao Command of the AFP.

Muslim clerics have denounced the desecration of the cathedral despite threats of the terrorists to execute Muslims who will criticize ISIS.

Last 25 August 2017, local newspaper The Philippine Star reported that Muslim police and soldiers held prayer rites at the Masjid Saad Huzam Almusairi, which they had also managed to retake from the Mautes. This was the first ever Jumaah worship ceremony at the Masjid Saad since May 23.

Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the provincial crisis management committee of Marawi, under the office of the governor in Lanao del Sur, said that Christian police officers and soldiers helped clean the worship site and secure its surroundings.

“That again was a tacit indication that the conflict here is not a conflict among Muslims and Christians. It is these two groups that are working together to restore law and order in Marawi City,” Adiong said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with ACN earlier this month, Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña disclosed that his prelature is now starting to craft plans for reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.

Asked whether there were concrete plans already to rebuild the Cathedral, Bishop dela Peña replied, “more than the Cathedral, what is more important is to restore the Christian community and its good relations with Muslims living in Marawi.”

Last 8 August 2017, Aid to the Church in Need donated $30,000 which was used to distribute sanitary kits to 1,500 Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) coming from Marawi City.

Bishop dela Peña thanked ACN for the donation but continued to plead for help from all Christians to help the Prelature of Marawi and the Diocese of Iligan in assisting the IDPs of Marawi City. The Bishop also hoped Christians would realize that Christ is also present in the suffering of non-Christians.

“When we do mission, we do not distinguish whether the people we are helping are Christians or not. And so I hope we don’t consider anymore our religious affiliation, we help because precisely the Lord is telling us there is the need, that there is your brother and sister. We help because there is a need and where there is a need, that is where God is calling us,” said Bishop dela Peña.

The ISIS-inspired terrorists, down to 30-45 members from its original 200-strong armed still control an estimated area of 600 square meters in Marawi. They continue to hold about 56 Christian hostages, including Marawi Prelature’s Vicar General Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob.

By ACN with reports from The Philippine Star and GMA News

Marawi Bishop on Viral Video: Respond in a Christian Manner

By Josemaria Claro, ACN Philippines

Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi urged Filipinos to respond in a Christian manner to a video that has gone viral showing Maute terrorists desecrating sacred images of the Catholic Church.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines, Bishop dela Peña remarked, “when people are angry, that anger can lead to something irrational. We are not going to respond with the same kind of hatred and violence that they are trying to sow in us.”

Bishop dela Peña reminded Catholics of Christ’s commandment to love one’s enemies. “This is a challenge for us to show love for people who do not want to accept us,” said dela Peña.

Desecration of Images, A Trademark of ISIS

Catholic churches in Mindanao have been targeted by Muslim extremists for decades but yesterday’s viral video showing Maute terrorists toppling, trampling and destroying statues of the Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary bears striking resemblance to the same inflammatory propaganda videos of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


A Christian church and the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is desecrated by ISIS in the chapel of St. Addai Church in Batnaya, Iraq. Similar acts of desecration in the Cathedral of Marawi were recorded and spread in a video online.

As in the Middle East, these acts were deliberately video-recorded for dissemination over social media in order to insult Christians.

Bishop dela Peña disclosed to ACN that unlike the Abu Sayyaf, which has long been known for its terrorist activities in the region, the Maute group is headed by members of an affluent Maranao family who sent their children to the Middle East.

ACN reported in a previous article that the radicalization in Mindanao has worsened with the proliferation of Islamist movements of Wahhabi inspiration, supported by Saudi Arabia. In another article, ACN also revealed that Islamist ideas are largely funded by countries in the Middle East, particularly through funding for scholarships that allow students to take courses in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and financial support for the publishing and distribution of Islamist literature in university campuses and mosques.

The 2014 Religious Freedom Report (RFR), published biannually by ACN, also disclosed that social media plays an important role in the spread of Islamist extremism.  “The rise of social media has meant that fundamentalism and religious hatred is felt far beyond geographical boundaries. Extremism, popularized through Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms and other social media, is such that religious hatred preached in a distant country is quickly of local concern,” read the Introduction of the 2014 RFR.

Distinguish between True Muslims and extremists

Despite the affront of the Maute terrorists on his Cathedral, Bishop dela Peña remarked that it is important not to attribute this kind of violent behavior to all Muslims.

“The danger about this video is that people begin to generalize and get back on innocent people. It is important to distinguish between true Muslims and religious extremists, between people who are trying to sow dissension and people who are moderate and level-headed,” said dela Peña.

Note: This is a developing story. ACN Philippines will update the article once more information is obtained.

How Filipino Muslims Sheltered Their Christian Countrymen During the Marawi Siege

By Josemaria Claro, ACN Philippines

Farida, a Muslim store owner in Marawi City, had no choice but to let the terrorists that barged in her store last May 24 plunder her goods and products. But when the armed men turned their attention to her 13 male employees huddled in a corner of the store, Farida looked the men in the eyes and told them in Maranao, “You will have to kill me first before you even touch them.” The terrorists, mostly in their teens, sensed the seriousness of Farida’s resolve and contented themselves with their loot. Farida knew she had to resort to such extreme measure to prevent any interaction between the gunmen and her employees who were mostly Christian migrants from nearby provinces. They have worked for almost a decade for Farida. Had the gunmen talked to them, it would be immediately found out that they were Christians and they would be taken along with their families.

After the terrorists fled, Farida immediately ordered all her employees to hide in her relative’s house. She then contacted her uncle to facilitate the escape of her Christian employees by boat to cross the ancient and sacred Maranao lake, and from there travel safely towards Iligan City. Farida’s story was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), one of the nation’s most widely-read newspapers.

In their language, Maranao means people of the lake as the elevated city of Marawi is located along the shores of the majestic and placid Lake Lanao. The Maranaos are the largest of the thirteen ethnic Muslim groups in the Philippines with each ethnic group having its own culture, literary tradition, and language. The Maranaos have long occupied the mountainous regions of Lanao del Sur in Central Mindanao. They are known for their music, epics, and textiles. They are also famous for their trading prowess and for these skills, Marawi City flourished as a business hub as early as the early 1900s. It was made the capital of the entire Lanao province and serves as the kilometer zero reference points of all roads in Mindanao.

As skilled tradespeople, the Maranaos are among the more affluent Muslim groups in the Philippines and Marawi City is one of the few places in the country where Christians from nearby provinces work for Muslim employers. Some Christians have decided to migrate to Marawi thanks to the good treatment of Muslim employers like Farida, who lets her workers live in their family compound.

Other stories like that of Farida’s were reported in various Philippine newspapers for the past days. There is also the story of Zaynab, a humanitarian worker who personally went along with 20 Christians in a 15-hour alternate route to avoid the gridlock of fleeing residents of Marawi City. “I never minded the danger. I was prepared to die first before they (terrorists) could harm the Christians, the PDI quotes Zaynab.

Another newspaper, The Philippine Star, recounts how a Muslim prosecutor sheltered 42 Christians in a tall building that he owns before facilitating their escape by batches. It also published a story about how seven Christians studying in Mindanao State University were trapped in their dormitories for days with three other Muslims. All throughout the ordeal, the Muslims assured their Christian schoolmates that should they be captured, they will never forsake them.

Marawi City Bishop Edwin dela Peña told ACN how a local Muslim official oriented the family of his personal driver and their other Christian companions about what they should tell the terrorists in the event of a confrontation. He then personally led them to buses that will take them to safety in Iligan City. “I would consider him a hero for leading these group of Christians and Muslims together, trying to flee from the danger that was awaiting them,” Bishop dela Peña told ACN.

These stories reflect the sense of compassion inherent in Muslim Maranaos. But it may also reflect the growing solidarity among Muslims and the Christian minority in Marawi City born from the efforts of the Catholic Church to engage their Muslim counterparts in interfaith dialogue. “[The Christian-Muslim relation] was beautiful. We were engaged in interfaith dialogue and we have many partners. It was beautiful until this extremism emerged, the fighting, the presence of these extremist elements from the Middle East, and the radicalization of young people.”

Bishop dela Peña is quick to refute however the allegation of the terrorists that the influence of Daesh (ISIS) is getting the support of the locals. “They (Maranaos) feel a certain kind of anger against these terrorist groups coming in to disturb this very holy remembrance of Ramadan. So if these extremist groups wanted to get the support of the people, they are not getting it now.” He adds, “in fact, we learned from them that they are also against this influx of ISIS elements coming into Marawi because they knew exactly what consequences would be to the culture of people, to the way of life. The people of Marawi have always been very peaceful.”

Even though his cathedral and bishop’s residence have been burned to the ground, in his appeal to ACN community, Bishop dela Peña wants to prioritize the humanitarian needs of the Maranao IDPs (internally displaced persons) cramped in evacuation centers in Iligan City. “We are not so much concerned about our needs in the moment, our focus is more trying to do what we can to respond to the humanitarian crisis that has turned up in Iligan right now, we have so many evacuees from Marawi and they need all the support that we can get.” The Bishop also asked for global awareness of the ongoing crisis, “we need to bring the attention of the world to what is happening in Marawi right now,” said the Bishop.

In his final appeal, Bishop dela Peña implores, “we are also working with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are with us in dialogue, it is one great opportunity for us to show our solidarity and try to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters especially in the evacuation centers. So this is what we are doing and if there is anything you can do to help us…, we would welcome it very much.”

Despite the ongoing tragedy, the Catholic Church, in communion with the Muslim Maranaos, believe Marawi City will rise from the ashes. It is hoped that the city’s forthcoming metamorphosis will send a strong message to the perverted minds of terrorists in the Middle East that the fires of hate and war will never scorch the hard-earned solidarity among Filipino Christians and Muslims and their shared dream of a peaceful and progressive Mindanao.


Photo Caption: An interfaith activity by the Silsilah Movement in Zamboanga City. Marawi City Bishop Edwin dela Peña believes interfaith dialogues are key to fighting religious extremism.

Catholic Priest and Staff Held Hostage by Lawless Elements in Southern Philippines

ACN Philippines, 24 May 2017

A Catholic priest and his staff are reportedly being held hostage by ISIS-inspired lawless elements that have occupied a number of facilities and public buildings in the Islamic city of Marawi, Central Mindanao, Philippines.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines as well as ACN Philippines, has called on the Catholic faithful to pray for the safety of Fr. Chito Suganob, MSP and his staff who were taking refuge at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s. The Cathedral has reportedly been taken over and set on fire last night by the Muslim extremists according to news received by Philippine news agencies, Zamboanga News and Radio Mindanao Network.

“Members of the Maute fighting group have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled. As government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration,” said Archbishop Villegas in a public Facebook post.

The attack on Marawi started on the afternoon of May 23 when the Philippine military launched an operation against “high value targets” belonging to the Abu Sayyaf and Maute terrorist groups in a commercial and residential area in Marawi.

In retaliation, around 100-200 armed men, assisted by local sympathizers, occupied the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City. An hour later, the terrorist group occupied the Marawi City Jail and allegedly set the facility on fire. Photographs of black ISIS flags hoisted by the terrorists in different parts of the city spread online.

Later in the evening, Philippine media reported that two other fires broke out in Dansalan College and Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The news agencies also mentioned in their reports that the armed men have laid siege of the city’s firetrucks thus preventing authorities from putting out the fires.

Despite the reports, the Philippine government, through its Armed Forces, claims the situation is fully under control and has urged Filipinos to refrain from sowing panic by sharing unverified accounts of the ongoing crisis. The military has also denied the claim that ISIS has reached the country. The President declared Martial Law last night in the entirety of Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Villegas pointed out in his statement that the incident should be a cause for solidarity among Filipino Muslims and Christians.

“We are fully aware that most Muslims are peace-loving. We call on all Catholics to pray with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We call on the occupiers who claim to worship the same God that we all do not defile His name by bloodshed. Peace be upon us all,” added Archbishop Villegas in a statement.


ACN Philippines Staff