Filipino Catholics, Protestants unite to rebuild Muslim city of Marawi

(Photo: REUTERS / Erik De Castro)A flotilla of bancas (locally made boats) carrying evacuees displaced from their homes due to fighting between government soldiers and Muslim rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is seen during sunset at a wharf in Zamboanga city, southern Philippines September 14, 2013. Fighting intensified on Saturday in the southern Philippines between government troops and rogue Muslim separatists, shattering a ceasefire almost immediately as it was to go into effect and leaving many residents running low on supplies. Dozens have been wounded and more than 62,000 people displaced, with hundreds of homes razed and a hospital still in flames.

Catholic and Protestant church groups in the Philippines are combining programs and resources to help rebuild the war-torn city of Marawi that underwent a siege in May. while under the control of Islamist extremists.

An alliance of at least 23 church groups is planning to "centralize" humanitarian work and "build a central platform to fully maximize resources," UCAN Catholic news reported Oct. 24.

Marawi is on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines and was the site of a bloody urban battle between fighters from an extremist Islamist group claiming allegiance to ISIL and government forces, Al Jazeera reported.

The city is officially known as the Islamic City of Marawi and it is the largest Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic nation.

ISIL fighters laid siege to the city in May, prompting months of heavy combat that prompted hundreds of thousands to flee and left more than 1,000 dead.

Jing Rey Henderson, coordinator of Caritas Philippines, said the "main mission" of the alliance is to "propel significant efforts in realizing peace and development."

He said "centralization" and use of a common platform for humanitarian aid would avoid overlapping of responses.

The church groups agreed to review "best practices" in humanitarian response and review the weaknesses that emerged during missions made in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said the "fundamental objective" is to help war-torn communities in Mindanao.

"Resources are finite, we must have a systematic way of using them," said the priest.

Catholic and Protestant church groups have already extended more than half a million U.S. dollars worth of combined direct response that has reached at least 10,000 families in Marawi said UCAN.

The joint humanitarian effort has mobilized over 30,000 local churches, national organizations, and international affiliates.

"We are happy to see an alliance among the three Christian councils in the Philippines and other faith-based groups," said Darlene Marquez Caramanzana of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Since the conflict in Marawi erupted on May 23, church groups have delivered emergency relief packs, psychosocial support, and conducted capacity-building activities to an estimated 400,000 affected individuals.

On Oct. 23, the Philippine military announced the end of combat operations in Marawi following President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement last week that the city has been liberated from Islamic State-inspired terrorist gunmen.

Copyright © 2016 Ecumenical News