Father Teresito ‘Chito’ Soganob, the Vicar General of Marawi, and staff from the city’s St Mary’s Cathedral were kidnapped by militant Islamist extremists.
St Mary’s was severely damaged by the extremists who filmed themselves desecrating the building. Father Soganob’s capture came at the start of the siege of Marawi, which continued until October 2017. Maute militants, affiliated with Daesh (ISIS), played a lead role in a conflict that involved other jihadists.
During his four-month captivity, Father Soganob witnessed the beheading of another Christian captive. The militants also forced the priest and other hostages to convert to Islam as well as to transport arms during the siege. After the release of both Father Soganob and others kidnapped at that time, Bishop Edwin de la Peña of Marawi said theirs was not a “full conversion” as it had been done under duress. By the time the Maute occupation ended, the death toll included 974 militants, 168 government personnel and 87 civilians. Thousands of families had been displaced in the longest urban battle in the Philippines since the Second World War.
Bishop de la Peña said Maute’s siege of Marawi had divided the local Muslim community; some Muslims defied the extremists by sheltering Christians. In the wake of the violence, the bishop stated that the Church’s priority was to rebuild trust in the city. Steps to repair relations between different faith communities include providing emergency aid for displaced people, university students visiting IDPs to provide support and a new rehabilitation centre helping Christians and Muslims kidnapped by extremists.
Aid to the Church in Need (UK) News, 19th April 2018; Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4th July 2017; Asia News, 13th January 2018.