SHAFAQNA – Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle urged his countrymen on Tuesday to be the signs of love, hope and light amid ongoing clashes between government forces and armed Islamist terrorists in the south of the country. The prelate who is Archbishop of Manila said attempts by Islamic State-inspired terrorists to make the conflict look like a war between religions, “will not succeed” because Muslims and Christians in Mindanao are helping each other. Cardinal Tagle was speaking on July 4 during a media briefing in preparation for the annual Philippine Conference on New Evangelization later this month.
“Whoever plans to divide Muslims and Christians will not triumph,” said the cardinal, adding that “stories of hope” continue to emerge from the conflict zone. The prelate said he heard of stories about Muslims taking care of Christians whose lives are in danger or Christians helping suffering Muslims.
Some 300,000 people, mostly Muslims, have languished in evacuation centers around Marawi since May 23 when terrorists attacked the city, burning the city’s Catholic cathedral and Protestant church properties. The gunmen belonging to the Maute group allied to the Islamic State (IS) are still holed up in Marawi holing about 100 hostages, including the vicar of Marawi Prelature and several Catholic church workers.
Following the attack, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire southern region of Mindanao under military rule. The Philippine Supreme Court on JUly 4 upheld Duterte’s martial law. Solicitor-General Jose Calida, the government’s counsel, said the president’s declaration is part of efforts to foil a plot to establish an Islamic state in Mindanao.
Cardinal Tagle said Muslim-Christian understanding and unity in Mindanao will serve as the “foundation for change and reconstruction of society in Marawi.” “Let us help each other in the midst of conflict,” said the Manila prelate. “Let us remove the wall that separates us … because we belong to one human family.”