Fr. Chito calls for healing, reconciliation in Marawi

Fr. Chito calls for healing, reconciliation in Marawi

Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub wipes his tears during a press conference in Manila on Friday as he recalls his ordeal in the hands of Islamic State followers in Marawi City. ROY LAGARDE

By Roy Lagarde

March 23, 2018

MANILA, Philippines

A Catholic priest who was held hostage for months by militants in southern Philippines urged Filipinos to embrace “reconciliation” as people displaced by war face an uphill battle towards recovery.

Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub said any efforts towards peace and rebuilding Marawi city is destined to fail without sincere commitment.

At a press conference in Manila on Friday, he stressed the importance of healing by opening a door to people who experienced the tragic reality of conflict.

“For me, that is the real response we can do as Christians. We have to transcend even if the wounds, the pain, and the hurts are still there, fresh and very real,” Soganub said.

“But we have to follow the mission of Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross, the way of love,” he said.

‘Test of faith’

The priest also spoke about his 116-day ordeal in the hands of the Maute group and the clashes between the group and the government forces.

He admitted that he almost gave up hope and was ready to die “but there was no other way but to strengthen my faith”.

“It was very hard even if you pray… even your spiritual sanity,” Soganub said. “But it was a test of my faith… I need to strengthen it, no other means.”

Soganub was abducted along with other Christians as militants rampaged through the Islamic city last May 23, torching churches, schools and other structures in a well-planned attack.

He and another civilian hostage were rescued by security forces after they escaped from the clutches of the extremists last Sept. 16.

A priest for more than two decades of the 42-year-old Marawi prelature, he said the “movement for peace” and interreligious dialogue must continue.

“I support evert action for dialogue for the good of Marawi and for the better understanding of the Muslims and Christians,” he said.

‘Let us not forget Marawi’

Soganub was among the speakers as the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines launched its fundraising campaign to help rebuild the city in partnership with Duyog Marawi.

ACN National Director Jonathan Luciano invited Filipinos to join in the mission to help people displaced by the siege.

As a nation, he said that “we are challenged to open our eyes widely so that we can see the need of the displaced and the victims”.

“Let us not forget Marawi,” Luciano said. “With your help, we can rebuild Marawi.”

Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi said that so far Duyog Marawi has served more than 20,000 families through food packs, medical missions, psychosocial services with the help of about 140 young professionals and volunteers.

He said the goal is to assist at least 30,000 families from the ground zero of the Marawi siege, including Christian minority.

“It is our way of preventing violent extremism… by also providing peace education from Muslim and Christian dialogue,” Dela Peña said.