The United Methodist Church was instrumental in alleviating the pain of Filipino civilians enduring the five-month siege of Marawi City by pro-Islamic State forces, says a United Methodist chaplain in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"I am privileged to join the relief operations done by the UMC and was able to extend help in terms of mobility, security and some relief goods," said the Rev. Eduardo Copliting, who expressed his gratitude for the church’s efforts.
United Methodists were among those who reached out to assist those caught in the continuing battle between government forces and Islamic State militants on the island of Mindanao.
The Philippine government declared victory in that battle in October.
The assistance included the June distribution of relief goods to more than 200 evacuees in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, and medical, optical, dental and relief operations with the internally displaced people in Barangay Bito Buadi Itowa. "There were more than 500 family beneficiaries of this program. Thank you for the support of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief),” he said.
Copliting also noted Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan’s visit to the troops on Sept. 6, with a morning stop to the wounded at Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Patag, Cagayan de Oro City, where he delivered 120 pairs of pajamas, and an afternoon stop with troops in Marawi City. “Around 7,000 bottles of drinking water and assorted medicines were given to our fighting soldiers," he said.
Billions of pesos are needed to revive the flattened city, said Copliting. "The UMC could help respond to the long-term rehabilitation programs of the government by helping build houses for the Marawi residents.”
But the chaplain also challenged United Methodists in the Philippines to go beyond restoring houses and buildings.
"I believe The United Methodist Church could provide help in terms of psycho-emotional intervention, especially for the children and women who were exposed to the war in Marawi,” he said. “Some of them are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD."
Also needed are peacebuilding efforts, such as organizing or sponsoring interfaith dialogues and peace conversations.
Help from the North to South
United Methodists in Middle Philippines Conference held a concert for Marawi on Dec. 7 in Waltermart, Cabanatuan City.
More than 250 people attended as they joined John Wesley Academy in staging a concert entitled “The Sound of Silence.” The event featured songs, dances and prayers for the families in Marawi. Wesley Divinity School students offered music. Children, young adults and choirs from four local United Methodist churches offered dances and songs and students from Wesleyan University-Philippines shared songs, creative movements and choruses.
John Wesley Academy is a program of the Middle Philippines and Wesleyan University-Philippines that cultivates social holiness among lay people.
Sergio Dela Cruz Jr., chair of the John Wesley Academy board, said that offering this concert is responding as one body of Christ.
“Our brothers and sisters, after the siege, are in need of help. We are here to respond as one body connected with one another.”
During the concert, a call to respond was read:
“The hardest part is coming to terms with what they got from the devastating blow. How to go over the fear, the hatred and the nightmares that come over and over to their broken emotions. This is where we wanted to be counted in. We do this connection to help them cope.”
“We eat our usual meals, they ate what little amount of food was there in the evacuation center to survive. We have the roof over our heads — they have nothing left to protect them from the elements.
“Children need not feel lost. Women must regain their strength and fortitude. Let us encourage everyone to remain brave protectors of each other.”
The concert is a local initiative to be able to give financial help to Marawi through the bishop’s office in Davao Episcopal Area.
Lucille Grace Hilario, the lay leader of Middle Philippines and the director of connectional ministries, said, “We are here to support and share our help in restoring and rehabilitating the lives of the innocent Filipinos who were affected by the raging war.”
Hilario said that she is hopeful that the songs will be heard and peace will prevail.
“It is our prayer that wars and violence will cease. May God hear our songs tonight and bring peace to the troubled souls, to the homeless and hopeless people of Marawi.”
Mangiduyos is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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