The Catholic Bishop of Marawi appealed to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday to allow some displaced Marawi families to return to their war-torn city, as he also urged Christians to help Muslim communities there.
'We humbly ask President Rodrigo Duterte to allow some of the displaced families to return home, particularly those who live in secured and government-controlled areas away from ground zero,' Bishop Edwin Dela Peña said in a press conference, according to Rappler.com.
'We trust the government to remain true to their commitment to listen to the voices of the Maranaos and to allow them to take the lead in the rebuilding process,' the bishop added.
Since May 23, Marawi City has been the site of clashes between government troops and Islamist terrorists from the Maute group.
According to data from the provincial crisis management committee, the conflict has displaced 600,000 residents of Marawi and surrounding areas.
'We are hopeful that soon the war will be over, and that the Maranaos can begin to go back home and rebuild their lives and rehabilitate their city,' Dela Peña said.
He also urged Christian communities 'to continue caring for the Maranaos' by sending support through government or non-governmental organisations and the Catholic Church.
'This is a critical moment in the history of Muslim-Christian relations in Marawi. This will either bring us closer or will widen the gap,' the bishop said.
He added: 'The peace in Marawi will not only benefit the Maranaos. It will benefit all of us – the whole of humanity. Let us show to the world that violent extremist ideas will not flourish in our lands.'