MANILA, Philippines – Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña visited the destroyed Marawi Cathedral for the first time since terrorists inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS) desecrated it in May 2017.
"It was heartbreaking," Dela Peña said, as quoted by the news service of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Dela Peña visited the Marawi Cathedral on Thursday, October 11, CBCP News also reported.
A press release by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity organization, said their group accompanied him during this visit.
"So many memories. We were the ones who built this. Now, everything is destroyed. Even the trees we planted are riddled with damage from bullets and mortar," Dela Peña said as quoted by ACN.
He earlier introduced Duyog Marawi, a rehabilitation program that focuses on healing and peace-building efforts in the ravaged city.
Brother Reynaldo Barnido, executive director of Duyog Marawi, said Marawi remains "fertile ground for terrorist recruitment."
"We can confirm that families in far-flung towns are being offered ₱40,000 and a water buffalo in exchange for attendance to a recruitment session. Terrorists then indoctrinate children and teenagers with extreme interpretations of Islam and eventually train them in military warfare," Barnido said, according to ACN.
View photos of Dela Peña's visit below, all courtesy of ACN Philippines:
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.