MANILA, Philippines — Caritas in the Philippines is appealing for help for 400,000 people displaced in Marawi as fears grow of malnutrition and displacement problems resulting from ongoing terrorist attacks.
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, also is seeking help to restore Marawi’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, reported ucanews.com. He said it was important to restore the central place of worship of the Catholic community in the predominantly Muslim city on Mindanao Island.
The Maute group, which claims to have links with Islamic State, launched terrorist attacks May 23, resulting in a standoff with Philippine security forces.
Gunmen took the cathedral’s vicar, Father Teresito Soganub, hostage and destroyed religious images, including photographs of Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI, as they rampaged inside the church.
Soganub was freed Sept. 17.
Government casualties have continued to rise as the conflict drags on, despite repeated promises by Philippine military commanders that it will soon be resolved. As of Oct. 8, at least 158 soldiers and police had been killed in action and more than a 1,000 are wounded. The military said Oct.9 that 774 militants had been killed and up to 48 militants were holding their positions — about 12 acres — with the aid of improvised explosive devices.
“I hope we continue to help those affected by the war so that they can go back to their normal lives,” Gariguez said.
On Oct. 10, Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi said the diocese would be confronted with a malnutrition crisis after the conflict is resolved.
De la Pena warned that the terrorists continued to recruit fighters, especially young men, in Marawi and surrounding areas.
“We have been exerting efforts to counter their recruitment activities,” said the bishop, adding that the “unending war in Mindanao” was the reason for the extreme poverty and terrorism in the region.