The Marawi crisis affected the displaced civilians physically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially. The people of Marawi City suffered a great loss – death and injury; damage to personal property, cultural and religious structures; loss of livelihood and income; and a disruption of business and education. They were also confronted by the appalling living conditions in evacuation centers. We could not and should not have been indifferent to the plight of these displaced persons.
In every message that we sent out, we showed respect for their customs and traditions, empathy, and an understanding of these people’s plight. We used the best arguments supported by facts and figures to capture and shape public sentiment and perception, as well as to counter those with opposing narratives. One good example was the incident of the 24th of July 2017, when people in some evacuation centers were agitated by left-leaning groups, who convinced them to march back into their respective homes in Marawi City. In response to this, we reasoned out with them by first apologizing for their displacement and explaining to them that it was caused by the enemies’ occupation of Marawi City and that staying in evacuation centers was for their own good, safety, and security.
We doubled our efforts in bridging gaps with the Maranao community. The dialogues that we conducted with them were appeals for their cooperation towards our peace-building campaigns. Our invitations to key local officials, religious leaders, civic organization representatives, and elders of the community were met with a positive response, as seen by their attendance and active participation during our meetings. These activities were orchestrated in order to mobilize the affected communities, encourage them to take responsibility to uplift their plight together with our support, and strengthen our advocacy for the establishment of a long and lasting peace in Mindanao.