We organized a small ‘Prayer for Peace in Marawi’ gathering at St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali last July 12. It was meant to supplement the efforts of the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai and Northern Emirates to collect letters and postcards addressed to the soldiers who are currently reclaiming Marawi City from the Muslim terrorists. The deadline for collecting the morale-boosting well-wishes was on July 13.
The conflict in Marawi started on May 23. The Armed Forces of the Philippines said on July 10 that more than 500 people have died of which 379 were terrorists, 89 soldiers and policemen, and 39 civilians.
Being in Dubai, in the UAE, we can only pray and hope that the fighting ends quickly. As I write this column, I’m looking at the front page of one national newspaper with the picture of the Iraqi city of Mosul which was recently reclaimed by the Iraqi armed forces from the Daesh terrorists. I don’t see any building in the picture. The picture shows complete devastation. I hope not to see a similar picture of Marawi once the city is reclaimed.
According to Wikipedia, Marawi is the capital and the largest city of the province of Lanao del Sur. The people of Marawi are called Maranaos and speak the Maranao language. They are named after Lake Lanao, which is called Meranau in the language, upon whose shores Marawi lies. Together with Malaybalay, the city is also called the Summer Capital of the South because of its higher elevation and cooler climate.
We had the group of Hanifah Ampatua, the president of the Maranao community (Marcom) in the UAE, joining us with her Muslim sisters wearing the same Maranao-branded shirt. Because her Muslim brothers had a hard time locating the church in Jebel Ali and consequently not showing up, Hanifa had to offer the prayers herself with these English meaning:
In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.
You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received your grace;
not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
Then she ended by saying: “We pray for Marawi and its people. We pray that the war ends so that our families, friends and relatives can start rebuilding their lives forever changed by this war. Assalaamu alaikum! May peace be with you all. Ameen!”
You can see the agony on the faces of the Muslim sisters on how they are coping with the situation. Imagine growing up in a beautiful home which is now destroyed by the aerial bombings of the Philippine Air Force. The recent graduation rites of the students of the Mindanao State University (MSU) of Marawi City were held at MSU’s Iligan Institute of Technology in Barangay Tibanga and at the La Salle Academy in Pala-o, both in Iligan City for obvious reasons.
Erwin ‘Tom’ Lladoc, an active volunteer in Filipino community activities and a member of the League of Filipino Gentlemen Dubai, read the statement of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines on the War in Marawi. Here are some excerpts:
“We believe that the war in Marawi is not religious. We have heard and read truly stunning stories of how Muslims have protected and helped Christians to escape from almost certain death. Even now Christians are assisting thousands of Muslims who have fled from Marawi for safety. These are indisputable signs that there is no religious war.
“For this reason as Catholic religious leaders we condemn in the strongest terms possible, as did Islamic religious scholars in Mindanao, the violent extremist Maute group in Marawi. Its leaders and members have pledged allegiance to ISIS. They have contradicted the fundamental tenets of Islam by abducting and hostaging, maiming and killing the innocent.
“Join us and let us continue the inter-religious dialogue called for by hundreds of Islamic leaders throughout the world. In 2007 they called for peace between Muslims and Christians when they wrote their famous open letter on ‘the Common Word’ to Christian religious leaders. How true their words were! The Muslim leaders wrote: The basis for peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths – love of the One God and love of neighbor.
“Loving our neighbor needs action. Let us together invest our resources to helping the thousands of people who have fled from the horrors of Marawi. Let us pray for the safety of trapped civilians and of those abducted and hostaged by the terrorists. Let us be vigilant and alert, helping our security forces thwart the threats of terrorism in other areas of Mindanao. Let us help the government rebuild the city of Marawi so that its citizens may return and restore their broken lives.”
We were also joined by Vice Consul Marianne Bringas and Vice Consul and Economic Officer Elizabeth Ramos who read a Catholic Prayer for Peace and the Peace Prayer by Saint Francis, respectively. Thank you, too, to Marlene Murphy, a member of Filipino Ladies in Dubai, and to Arnold Valbuena, a leader of CFC in Jebel Ali, who assisted in setting up the room provided by the parish office.
Let’s continue then to pray for peace in Marawi as well as in other areas of the Philippines where lawlessness is becoming the norm. May the greed and pride of men and women be set aside for peaceful co-existence.