THE BISHOP of Marawi urged the Thomasian community on Nov. 22 to fight for religious freedom, as the University participated in the global “Red Wednesday” campaign to honor Christians persecuted for their faith worldwide.
Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña called on Thomasians to take inspiration in the youth of Marawi — the “seeds of hope” for rebuilding of the Catholic community after the terrorist attack by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group.
“If they volunteered their service to us, it is because they trust us. And what is very amazing about it is that most of our volunteers are young people who are [Muslims and Maranaos]. This is the seed of hope for the prelature of Marawi, the young people who are helping us,” de la Peña said in a forum at the Central Laboratory Auditorium.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a pontifical foundation providing support for persecuted Christians and suffering churches worldwide through prayer and information campaigns, launched a fundraising project called “Duyog Marawi” to help the persecuted people of Marawi and rebuild the city’s churches.
Jonathan Luciano, national director of the ACN–Philippines, stressed the need to eradicate religious hatred, noting that Christianity promotes inclusivity.
“We should strive to live together in harmony. It’s called religious tolerance. When religious tolerance disappears, violence, hate and anger would follow. That’s Christian love, [the] message of Christianity — to live side by side with people of other faiths,” he said.
‘Gospel of love, mercy and compassion’
In his homily for Red Wednesday Mass at the Manila Cathedral, de la Peña decried the violent terrorism and extremism in the Middle East and Philippines.
“For the first time in the Philippines, we vow to make an effort to stop the persecution by [the] power of the Gospel of God’s love, mercy, and compassion, and ensure that they will no longer be forgotten through our prayers and [our] spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” the Marawi prelate said.
De la Peña encouraged the faithful to always remember persecuted Christians and actively help in alleviating their sufferings.
“Let our coming together ignite lively response of faith from the Church in the Philippines. We pray to look for the plight of the persecuted Christians into temporary, spiritual and material help for the victims of violence and hatred against religion,” he said.
The University’s Main Building, the Santisimo Rosario Parish and the Arch of the Centuries were floodlit in red to support the Red Wednesday campaign.
Spearheaded by ACN’s United Kingdom office, the Red Wednesday campaign was a prayer campaign to raise awareness on Christian persecution and call Christians to action.
Data from the 2017 World Watch List by Open Door USA showed that nearly 215 million Christians had been persecuted worldwide.