Freed from Muslim captors, Filipino priest still believes in inter-religious dialogue

By Josemaria Claro
Briefing to our Donors

A SMILING Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub made an appearance Sept. 19, 2017 at a press briefing by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He was allowed to make a short statement and asked for prayers for a quick recovery from the traumatic experience of being held hostage 117 days by an extremist Muslim group.

Father Teresito Suganob

The priest was rescued the evening of Sept. 16, 2017, when the military sought to clear the Bato Islamic mosque in Marawi City, one of three mosques that have served as strongholds for the Islamist terrorists. The mosque was successfully retaken by the soldiers.

In a video interview conducted by a local government official and published on a social media website, Father Soganub stressed the importance of the mission of the Prelature of Marawi in engaging the majority Muslim community in interreligious dialogue.

“To the Muslims of Marawi and Lanao del Sur, I declare that I continue to believe that we can still be united as Muslims and Christians. We are not enemies, we believe in one God,” said Soganub.

The priest also thanked the AFP for his rescue.

Bishop Elenito Galido of Iligan, a diocese 25 miles away from Marawi City, also thanked the soldiers who rescued the priest.  He said: “This is really good news. I thank the soldiers who rescued Father ‘Chito’ and the teacher from Dansalan College. We are very pleased; this is an answered prayer because we have been praying for him every day. Now, they are free. Thanks be to God.”

The military reported that Father Soganub did not experience any physical abuse, but there were times during heavy fighting when he was forced to carry firearms and pose as one of the terrorists.

Father Soganub is the Vicar General of the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City—where he was first captured—a predominantly Muslim town in Central Mindanao, the southernmost archipelago of the Philippines. Pope Paul VI created the Prelature of Marawi in a gesture of reconciliation aimed at Filipino Muslims who were victimized by the abuse of government forces under martial law.

Last 23 May 2017, the city of Marawi was attacked by more than 700 armed men who professed allegiance to ISIS According to the Philippine government, a total of 47 civilians, 149 government troops, and 673 terrorists have been killed in the ongoing conflict. Almost 650,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. There are no updates about the remaining 50 hostages, some 20 of whom are staff of St. Mary’s Cathedral.

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