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ICC Note: Silsilah, a Catholic initiative for dialogue and peace is continuing its activities to rebuild hope and peace between Christians and Muslims in a war torn Mindanao. The five-month long siege has left many homeless and children traumatized. Through arts-related activities, Silsilah helped hundreds of kids to overcome trauma and express their desire for peace.

03/23/2018 Philippines (Asia News) – The movement for dialogue and peace Silsilah (chain, tie in Arabic), founded by PIME missionary Fr Sebastiano D’Ambra in 1984, continues its initiatives to rebuild hope and peace between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao.

On 23 October, the Filipino government declared the end of fighting in the “Islamic” city of Marawi, about five months after hundreds of jihadists attacked the southern city in a daring attempt to turn it into a “province” of the Islamic State (IS).

The fighting devastated the city, left at least 1,131 people dead, and provoked ethno-religious tensions on the island of Mindanao, where Filipino Muslims, about 20 per cent of the country’s population, are concentrated.

Remembering the suffering of the island’s population during the crisis, the Silsilah Forum renewed on several occasions its work against religious hatred inviting Christians and Muslims not to lose hope.

Two weeks ago, with the support of Quiapo parish in Manila, the movement organised arts-related activities for Maranao children, a mostly Muslim ethnic group living in Mindanao, who suffered the most during the conflict.

Thanks to the contribution of some Forum members from Iligan and members of the Maranao community, Silsilah brought together hundreds of children to help them overcome trauma through drawing and painting. Volunteers helped them to express their pain, but also their desire for peace, through art.

Silsilah is also helping the people of Marawi by renewing its initiative at Mindanao State University (MSU), a large university established in the early seventies to build good relations through education.

As a result of the fighting, the MSU has to restart from scratch. To this end, Silsilah decided to boost its presence through its members and supporters at the university.

Another story of hope, which the movement for dialogue and peace shared in its monthly newsletter OasisNews, is about a nun whose pastoral work is done in Malabang, a village near Marawi.

In a place where the number of Christians is shrinking as a result of fear, the nun decided to remain as a “witness of love”, despite threats by some radical groups who have made life hard for non-Muslims.

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