Some one hundred extremists of the “Maute” Islamist group affiliated to ISIS, occupied Marawi City, in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), chief town of the Province of Lanao del Sur on Tuesday, May 23, and attacked the local Catholic Cathedral.
Not only did the militiamen destroy the Cathedral and the Bishop’s residence, but they also kidnapped some 15 faithful, among them a priest, some women religious and some lay people who were praying in the Cathedral, on the last day of the Novena to Mary Help of Christians, whose feast is celebrated today.
Monsignor Edwin De la Pena , who heads the territorial Prelature of Marawi City, confirmed the news to Fides agency. “They erupted in the church, seized the hostages and led them to an unknown locality. They entered the Bishop’s residence and kidnapped the Vicar General, Father Teresito Soganub. Then they set fire to the Cathedral and the Bishop’s residence,” he said.
“It happened in fact on the eve of Mary’s feast: we ask her for help,” because “only she can come to our aid,” continued Monsignor De la Pena. “We also make an appeal to Pope Francis to pray for us and to ask the terrorists to release the hostages, in the name of our common humanity.”
To address the crisis in the ARMM region, which is made up of five primarily Muslim provinces of Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte interrupted his visit to Moscow to return to his country and he decreed martial law. Marawi City has some 200,000 inhabitants, mainly Muslims. For decades the South of the Philippines, which is predominantly Muslim, has been the theater of a bloody civil war between the central government of Manila and separatist and Islamic groups.