With sadness, we wish to share with you the "bad news" on the horrible incident that occurred in the famous "Islamic City" in Southern Philippines, Marawi City.
The decades-old UCCP School in that City -- the DANSALAN COLLEGE -- was mercilessly attacked yesterday afternoon (May 23rd) by the armed Maute Group, a terrorist group suspected to have link with the ISIS.
The Laubach Hall -- the main building of the school -- was burned down, including the science laboratory, the library and dormitory. The teachers & school personnel were trapped or held hostage inside the campus. Unconfirmed report had been circulated saying that some teachers of Dansalan College were killed or beheaded during the assault.
We likewise heard from the news that the Roman Catholic Cathedral and Bishop's House in Marawi City were also burned by the same Maute Group. The parish priest & other church personnel were reportedly held hostage and brought to undisclosed captivity. They cannot be traced as of this time.
Indeed amid this tragedy, we beg for prayers and solidarity especially from our Partners. Attached is the Statement issued by the UCCP Bishops: "We finally appeal to all our Partners to please help us in whatever way to REBUILD our educational ministry in that City."
UPDATE (May 26, 2017)
In the meantime, we have received the following update:
We therefore ask you for your continued prayers, especially for the safety and early release of the hostages.
Rev. Rannieh Mercado
- Statement by Bishop Reuel Marigza of UCCP -
"Let us pray that the situation in Marawi and in our school there (Dansalan College) does not escalate and that it will be resolved soonest. I will come up with a fuller statement today.
Some buildings of the Dansalan College as well as some other schools and facilities were burned down as diversionary tactic to the objective of the Maute Group. Let us pray for the safety of our personnel led by Dr. Fedelinda Tawagon, as well as all residents of the city, whether Christians or Muslims or of whatever creed they belong to.
Reports are still sketchy as of this time. I hope we do not exacerbate the situation by spreading unverified information or portraying this as a religious war, as this only creates a situation panic as well as increase the tension.
While the criminal elements responsible should be pursued and be held accountable, let us also pray that the military use the Martial Law judiciously and not make it as an occasion to imperil the ongoing peace talks with the MILF and/or the NDFP.
Above all, let us pray for God's intervention. Pray for a true and lasting peace in our land."
An UPDATE on our trip to ILIGAN: A Call for Intensified Prayers
Sisters and brothers:
As many of you are aware that we went to Iligan yesterday to assess situation on the ground and meet with the various UCCP stakeholders to map out plans affecting the immediate future of the Dansalan College Foundation, Inc. (DCFI).
With me in the meeting were:
* Dr. Fedelinda Tawagon, President of the Dansalan College
* Rev. Riodel Manzano, Conference Minister of the Lanao District Conference
* Rev. Alejandro Lazaro, Program Coordinator of the North West Mindanao Jurisdictional Area, representing Bishop Melzar Labuntog
* Dr. Pio Baconga, General Assembly Chairperson and ACSCU President
* Rev. Rannieh Mercado, Executive Secretary for Administration and Program Ministries, Office of the General Secretary
* Ms. Edna Orteza, Executive Director of UCCP-CREATE
We were joined together at one point or another by representatives of our network in the area, and prominent Muslim scholar (We will acknowledge them at a later point. This is to protect their personal circumstance at the moment).
Since it was still not possible to proceed to Marawi, we heard of the situation from one of DFCI personnel who was able to escape to Iligan. There are still DFCI personnel and family members including 8 children holed up in Marawi. For security reasons, we cannot divulge here their whereabouts. There are also 7 personnel still in the hands of the Maute group.
We are doing all we can to get in touch with authorities to try to extricate those holed up in one place as food and water have already ran out. An attempt by the Red Cross for a one hour ceasefire to bring in food was initially okayed but later revoked. There is still fighting in the area so it is still restricted especially for civilians.
We will try to minister to the needs of the DFCI who have evacuated to Iligan City. The UCCP Lanao District Conference though our Conference Minister, Rev. Riodel Manzano, is willing to coordinate and facilitate ecumenical relief efforts under the NCCP and even with the broader ecumenical and inter-faith efforts.
Hoping and praying that the situation will be resolved soon, we intend to re-open the school by August at the latest, but sooner if the situation will so permit. We will do rehabilitation work when the situation clears. We were one in the thought that we will not give up our vital inter-faith efforts and ministry in the area.
There are other initiatives but could not be detailed out here and now for obvious reasons. But please be assured that your leadership, as represented by the various stakeholders, is committed in doing its utmost in trying to help out especially the immediate and medium-term objectives that we have outlined.
There is a need in the long-term to address the issue of extremism and fundamentalism, by intensifying and strengthening interfaith relations among peace-loving peoples of faith.
We continue to ask for your prayers in these critical times. The prayers of the righteous and the faithful, like it did in the Exodus event, reach the heart of our God, who listens to the cries of the people of God.
Yours in Christ,
and of behalf of the UCCP stakeholders,
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza
May 30, 2017