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Dansalan College buildings burned and teachers abducted in Marawi City, Philippines

UCCP and National Council of Churches in the Philippines requesting urgent prayers

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

The charred shell of Laubach Hall — the main building of Dansalan College — which included the science laboratory, the library and a dormitory. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), a longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) global partner, joined the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) in requesting prayers for an end to the ongoing violence in Marawi City, on the island of Mindanao.

Violence broke out last Tuesday when the government attempted to capture a senior leader of Abu Sayyaf, a small and violent Islamic jihadist group in the southern Philippines. It has become known for kidnapping and ransom, landing it on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.

The Associated Press reported that the military was surprised by Maute militants, also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, led by Abdullah Maute. Since holding the city captive, about 100 people have been killed.

On Tuesday, the Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes Jr., general secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, sent out an update by email. “By 5 p.m. (on the afternoon of May 23), Maute members reportedly occupied the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City. Amidst explosion, fire engulfed the Marawi City Jail, Dansalan College and St. Mary’s Church. At 10 p.m. President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law,” he wrote.

Dansalan College was founded in 1950 by the UCCP and is considered to play a lead role in interfaith relations in the area. Around 95 percent of the student body is Muslim, while the staff is nearly 80 percent Christian. Reports are that that at least two buildings on the campus were burned.

Seven Dansalan teachers, five women and two men, are being held by the Maute group. There are an estimated 2,000 people still trapped in the city, among them 34 Dansalan teachers and eight of their children who are in hiding and being hunted by the terrorist group. Some are reported to be starving and ill. The last contact with them was six days ago. Due to snipers, humanitarian aid has been unable to reach them.

In a call to prayer, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, general secretary of the UCCP, wrote, “Let us pray that the situation in Marawi and in our school there does not escalate, and that it will be resolved as soon as possible. We condemn the burning of Dansalan College, an institution that welcomes people of all faiths and has served the Maranaos and the people of Marawi for a long time. We also condemn the assaults on every institution serving the public and remember the right of families of all creeds to safely access education and health care.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has also expressed serious concern over the nearly immediate declaration of martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte. Reyes wrote, “We believe that placing the entire island under martial law only sends a chilling effect on the general populace. We realized that the issues in Mindanao are complex, but the sudden declaration of martial law is bound to make matters worse and civilians more vulnerable. We urge our president to lift the martial law at the soonest possible time and address the issues that give rise to this conflict, not through an all-out-war, but through peaceful means. We believe peaceful resolutions are possible.”

Reyes invited prayers that civilians will be protected and served and that civil liberties will be respected and observed.

Mienda Uriarte, World Mission’s coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Area office, has been staying in close touch with global partners and offering the prayers and accompaniment of PC(USA) and its churches.

“With unwavering witness of faith and courage in the face of crisis, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines stands in solidarity with those in the margins as one of their colleges burned to the ground and its personnel are held hostage or have been forced into hiding,” she said. “Dansalan College is an authentic example of what it means to be a living testimony. The majority Muslim student body and the majority of Christian faculty and staff learn and teach by example all that our living God of love calls us to do every day.”

Marigza wants to stay focused on the future and hopes the current situation will be resolved quickly and peacefully.

“In the long-term, there is a need to address the issue of extremism and fundamentalism, by intensifying and strengthening interfaith relations among peace-loving people of all faiths,” he said.


You can donate to the work of the Church of Christ of the Philippines and to the restoration efforts at Dansalan College and Marawi City by clicking on Please designate “Marawi” in the comments area.

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