Rescued from months as hostage, Filipino priest talks of need for religious harmony

MANILA, Philippines — For more than 100 days, the life of Catholic priest Teresito Soganub was threatened by every airstrike, gunshot and artillery bombardment that targeted his Islamic State group-aligned captors in the southern Philippines.

When Soganub, 51, began talking Monday about his captivity following his rescue by Philippine troops in Marawi city, there were no bitter condemnations. He spoke of how Muslims and Christians should live in peaceful coexistence.

“I still believe in an interfaith relationship, that we can be united as Muslims and Christians, that we’re not enemies,” Suganob said on board an air force plane that brought him to Manila.

Soganub has long promoted a dialogue between Muslims and Christians in the country’s south, regional assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said.

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Top military and defense officials met Soganub and he was briefly presented to a huge group of journalists, photographers and TV cameras at the military headquarters.

“Pray for me, for my healing and recovery,” said Soganub, who appeared remarkably healthy with a long, white beard, and was in a jovial mood as he thanked his rescuers.

Asked how he was, Soganub said with a laugh, “Physically strong, handsome.”

He smiled and waved before being ushered out of a military hall without taking any questions.

Soganub was among many civilians abducted in May when hundreds of militants waving IS-style black flags laid siege to mosque-studded Marawi, a center of Islamic faith in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. A few days after his abduction, Soganub appeared in a video, apparently taken under duress by the militants, in which he said he was with about 200 other hostages and that his captors wanted the military to withdraw its forces from the city.

“We want to live another day, we want to live another month,” Soganub said in the video while standing alone in front of partially burned buildings.

In another video, the militants were shown smashing religious statues, ripping a picture of Pope Francis and toppling a crucifix in a Marawi cathedral, in what the military said was an attempt to foment a religious war. Military officials asked Facebook and other social-media companies to take down the video.

Other freed hostages have talked about female captives being abused and forced to marry some of the militants. Some hostages were shot and others…

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