CATHOLIC priest Fr. Rey Teresito "Chito" Soganub, who lived through the devastation of Marawi City in the hands of terrorists has called for interfaith relationship to unite Muslims and Christians.
"I still believe in an interfaith relationship, that we can be united as Muslims and Christians, that we're not enemies," Soganub said on board an air force plane that brought him to Manila. According to Provincial Crisis Management Committee spokesperson and Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, Fr. Chito has been advocating inter-faith dialogue long before he was held captive by the terrorists during the Marawi siege.
This brings to mind Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud who caused the establishment of the prelature of Marawi and has been recognized as the father of inter-faith dialogue not just in Asia, but in many third world settings, as Brother Karl M. Gaspar CSsR recalled.
It was Bishop Tudtud who pushed for the creation of the Marawi prelature to forward his advocacy for interfaith dialogue in the 1970s.
In the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (http://cbcpwebsite.com/ArchDioceses2/marawi.html), it was written that according to former Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, who took over as the bishop of the Marawi Prelature when Bishop Tudtud died in a plane crash on June 27, 1987, it was in a "meeting with Pope Paul VI in 1976, (when) Bishop Tudtud told the pope he wanted to work among Muslims and he was interested in reconciling Christians and Muslims through what he called a “dialogue of life.”
This, because when Bishop Tudtud became Bishop of Iligan, having jurisdiction over Lanao provinces, saw Lanao del Sur torn by hostilities, killings, and culture-rooted unrest. Affected by the situation, Bishop Tudtud went to Rome in 1974 to study Islam and meet with Pope Paul VI two years later when he had the chance to explain to the Pope the seeming hopelessness of situation there that even the Church cannot do anything.
The Pope's reply that will forever ring in the halls of the Catholic Church in Marawi was: "The Gospel demands that we rise up not only above our unfounded prejudices, but specially that we should rise above when our well founded prejudices."
From this reply, Bishop Tudtud submitted a proposal to the Vatican to make Marawi and Lanao del Sur a separate prelature in October 1976, a proposal that was approved by Pope Paul VI in a manner unusually swift. Thus, on December 8, 1976, the Prelature of Marawi was erected.
It is not surprising then, that when the IS-inspired group of the Maute Brothers staged the siege, among the first they destroyed was the Cathedral of St. Mary, where the archives of the beginnings of this interfaith dialogue could have been found. Also among the first to be destroyed was the Protestant Dansalan College, which again served as the repository of more records about this interfaith dialogue among Christians and Muslims.
The Maute Group knew that in order to win in their terrorist war, they should also remove the memory of peace that has been sown since the 1970s. It is upon us, the people, to remember and to insist on dialogues among people of different faiths. Let us not allow the terrorists to remove what has been started, and let us heed Fr. Chito's call: to reach out in peace to everyone regardless of faith and aspire for that day when we are all united as friends, brothers and sisters in the true sense of these words and not as monickers with no meaning.