Philippine Christians, Muslims pray in Marawi's ruins
Places of worship in the city will be rebuilt as symbols of inter-religious dialogue, they say.
Christian and Muslim religious leaders hold an "interfaith prayer" outside a devastated mosque in the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines on July 27. (Contributed Photo)
A group of Christians and Muslims held "interfaith prayers" in the ruins of a church and a mosque on July 27 in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, which was devastated by a five-month siege in 2017.
The prayers were led by Father Teresito Soganub, parish priest of the Marawi Catholic cathedral who was held hostage by terrorist gunmen during the shooting war.
"I hope that whatever happens, we can continue to journey together for peace in Mindanao," said the priest referring to the rebuilding of places of worship in the city.
He said the Catholic cathedral, which was burned and desecrated by extremist gunmen, is a Christian symbol of "inter-religious dialogue" with Muslims.
"It hurts me to see the church, where I served for years, in ruins," a teary-eyed Father Soganub said.
The priest, together with Muslim religious leaders, also visited mosques that were damaged during the conflict.
The five-month-long siege left a trail of death, destruction, and thousands of people displaced.
Earlier, Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi said the rebuilding of the Catholic cathedral in Marawi will only take place once mosques are rebuilt in the predominantly Muslim city.
The proposed new cathedral will be built over the ruins of the church, although the old altar will remain.
"The old and the new will be linked to give us hope for the future," said the prelate who was elected this month as head of the Philippine bishops’ inter-religious dialogue efforts.
The Marawi Catholic prelature and the Redemptorist Missionaries have already established a program to help rehabilitate the city and help promote peace.
Bishop Dela Peña said that the most crucial task at hand is to rebuild the peace that Muslims and the small Christian community have been working on.
"Because I am an 'internally-displaced bishop' I have been tasked to be the voice of the displaced who have not returned to their homes," said the prelate.
"We are trying to help them build their homes," he said.
To date, the rehabilitation of "Ground Zero," the former main battle area now referred to by the government as the "most affected area," has yet to start.
The government agency tasked with rebuilding the city is still in the process of clearing debris as munitions experts search for unexploded bombs.
The government said at least 1 billion U.S. dollars is needed to rebuild Marawi and its surrounding areas.