Ecumenical forum on Marawi Siege precursor to humanitarian mission

“Ignorant Christians will only add to the problem,” said Rev. Fr. Christopher Ablon during a forum on the Marawi Siege held this afternoon at the Ecumenical Chapel of the UCCP Church in Saray, Iligan City.

Public opinion on the ongoing conflict in Marawi City and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has been varied, with some groups strongly calling for the lifting of the declaration while others espousing the heightened military rule. The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), together with the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) and other organizations under Kalinaw Mindanao, decided to put together different voices to discuss the issues in the forum titled, 'Oikoumene for Marawi'.

Jerome Succor Aba provided an interpretation of the incident from the perspective of the Moro communities under Suara Bangsamoro. Alimundas Laut then shared his testimony as an evacuee and as a religious leader facing the crisis in the midst of the sacred time of Ramadan.

Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz, the current vice mayor of Iligan City, and Fr. Ablon of Karapatan – Northern Mindanao and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platfform, provided reactions to the inputs of the Moro speakers.

Msgr. Vera Cruz, echoing the position of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, while agreeing with Mr. Aba on the atrocities of the conflict, stated that the declaration of Martial Law is for the greater good of the Mindanao communities.

“We opt to go through all of [the checkpoints] and save one life,” said Msgr. Vera Cruz. He also explained that if not for martial law, the personnel manning the checkpoints would not be able to check the cars and the persons going through as thoroughly as they are doing now.

He, however, expressed that he is hoping that the situation is only temporary and would not be prolonged. “I know how it was in the Martial Law before. I was already in highschool and I knew what was going on,” he said, referring to the disappearances and the other consequences of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Fr. Ablon, who is from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, had an opposite opinion, stating that he is against the declaration of martial law. “The reaction was an overkill,” he said. “The most important voice at this point is the voice of the survivors. And they have asked to amplify their calls for a cessation of the indiscriminate bombing and their call to lift the martial law.”

Karapatan-NMR, in their initial documentation, was able to register issues of disappearances.

The forum is a preparatory activity for the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission that would bring relief and services to some evacuation centers inside and outside of Iligan City. A major component of the mission would be the documentation of the effects of the conflict on the civilians in Marawi City.###