Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle called for unity between Christians and Muslims amid the ongoing fighting between government forces and local terror group Maute which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
In a statement to the media on July 4 ahead of the annual Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, Cardinal Tagle highlighted the stories of hope that have surfaced from Marawi City. He said attempts to drive Christians and Muslims apart will not succeed as the two religious communities continue to help each other despite the ongoing conflict in their embattled hometown, the Vatican Radio relayed.
"Whoever plans to divide Muslims and Christians will not triumph," Cardinal Tagle declared.
In addition, Cardinal Tagle talked about how Muslims protected Christians whose lives were in danger. There were also Christians who extended a helping hand to Muslims who were suffering. For the Manila prelate, the unity between these two religious communities will be the foundation for the efforts to rebuild Marawi City later on.
"Let us help each other in the midst of conflict," Cardinal Tagle added. "Let us remove the wall that separates us ... because we belong to one human family."
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law over the entire island of Mindanao after the Maute group attacked Marawi on May 23, burning Christian churches and holding around 100 hostages. Solicitor-General Jose Calida said the declaration was part of the state's efforts to crush the terrorists' plan to establish an Islamic state in the region.
On July 6, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the death toll among military troops has reached 85 as the clashes in Marawi entered its 45th day. Although he said the government forces suffered a lot of injuries in the fight, he said the war might come to an end soon, the Inquirer reported.
The death toll among terrorists, on the other hand, had reached 351 as of July 5, according to Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla. He added that civilian death has also been chalked down to 39 and that the military still continues to rescue civilians and hostages from the area of conflict.