MANILA— Top officials of the Catholic Church in the country urged the faithful to pray for those who could have been taken hostage by insurgents in Marawi City on Tuesday during the conflict between government forces and Maute Group.
“I pray for the safety of all the hostages. I appeal to the consciences of the hostage-takers not to harm the innocent as the Islamic faith teaches,” said Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo in a statement issued in Wednesday.
The Cotabato Archbishop asked Islam religious leaders to encourage the terrorist group to let go of hostages.
“I appeal to religious leaders of Islam to influence the hostage-takers to release the hostages unharmed. For God’s will is the safety of innocent people. May the loving God protect the people of Marawi,” he added.
Also, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on the people to pray for the hostages including Fr. Chito Siganob of the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the said city.
“We beg every Filipino to pray fervently for Fr. Chito and for other hostages. As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration,” he said in a statement.
“Fr. Chito Suganob and others were in the Cathedral of St. Mary’s when members of the Maute fighting group forced their way into the Cathedral, taking with them Fr. Chito and others as hostages. They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled,” the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate added.
Villegas noted that the hostages should be freed since they are not a threat to the attackers.
“At the time of his capture, Fr. Chito was in the performance of his ministry as a priest. He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict,” he said.
On the other hand, the CBCP president reminded the terrorist organization which is linked to Islamic State, that Christians and Islam have only one God, who is merciful and kind.
“Finally, we call on the Maute group that claims to bear arms in the name of a Merciful and Benevolent God — the very same God we Christians worship and adore — to do the One God true honor by the mercy and benevolence that are two of our God’s most exalted attributes,” Villegas said.