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Prayers to heal our broken land

THIS last week, in various parts of the country, people turned to prayer in the face of the problems that have troubled us lately, problems that have been much greater and more troubling than in the recent past.

At the Bulacan Day of Prayer last Wednesday, some 5,000 Bulakeños led by Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado lighted candles as they sang and prayed, “Lord, heal our land… Forgive our sins and heal our broken land…” It was an ecumenical prayer in which various religious groups – Catholics, Aglipayans, Methodists, and other denominations, Iglesia members, and Muslims – came together to pray for peace and healing. They were joined by three members of President Duterte’s cabinet – Presidential Spokesman Ernesto C. Abella, Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguire II, and Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana.

At the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, some 6,000 delegates attended the start of a three-day Philippine Conference on New Evangelization last Friday with the theme “One Heart, One Soul.” While the focus was on evangelization, Fr. Jason Laguerta said it was also an initiative to promote peace and unity, with various groups, not just Christian organizations, invited to the gathering.

Tomorrow, Monday, religious leaders will gather in Butuan City in northeast Mindanao to pray for peace, reconciliation, healing, and unity, in a meeting led by the Ophir Care Missions Philippines, the Diocese of Butuan, and various evangelical churches. The leaders will sign a pledge of commitment and support for government forces striving to restore peace in Marawi City, to help in its rehabilitation, resist all forms of crime against humanity, and help promote peace and unity in every community in Mindanao.

It has now been 68 days since Maute rebels, supported by jihadist Islamic State combatants, took over part of Marawi City and President Duterte immediately declared martial law in Mindanao to stop the rebellion. Wide areas of the city have been destroyed in the fighting. It seems the rebels were able to stock so much arms and ammunition that they are able to fight to this day.

As of July 25, the Armed Forces said, the death toll stood at 109 soldiers, along with 453 rebels, and 45 civilians.

As for the destroyed and damaged homes and buildings, the expected cost of rehabilitation has been pegged at P20 billion.

The material losses can all be recovered but the deaths will not be easily forgotten. On many sides, there will be suspicion and bitterness and fear. We hope that the prayer meetings that were held in recent days will move other organizations and other communities to hold meetings of their own – for peace, for reconciliation, for unity in the entire country, especially in Mindanao, and most especially in Marawi City.