“Please take me now, Lord.”
This was Catholic priest Chito Soganub’s plea to God during his 116-day ordeal in the hands of Maute terrorist group that laid siege on Marawi City last year.
An emotional Soganub, a priest of the Marawi prelature who was at the St. Mary’s Cathedral when the terrorists attacked the country’s Islamic capital on May 23, 2017, recalled his captivity for the first time on Friday.
Soganub, in a news conference at the Arsobizpado de Manila in Intramuros, said that while being held captive was difficult, it was also a privilege to join the Lord in suffering.
“I was leaning on the fact that, perhaps, this is the time that the Lord wants me to join the Sorrowful Mystery,” said Soganub, referring to the five mysteries of the rosary recalling Christ’s passion and death.
The news conference was organized by Aid to the Church in Need Philippines, an organization that aims to build partnerships for the rehabilitation of Marawi.
Soganub admitted he was forced by the Islamic State-linked terrorists to collect black powder for improvised explosives.
The most difficult part of being hostage was feeling perpetually terrified at the thought of dying during each bomb explosion and firing of canyon by the Armed Forces, Soganub said.
He also said he came to a point when he empathized with the terrorists. Two militants, he said, told him to pray hard and keep his faith amid fighting.
The purpose of his tell-all, he said, was to remind the public and the government of the rampant discrimination of Muslims in Mindanao, which he said was one of the causes of the conflict in the region.
Soganub was taken along with several church staff as hostages during the Marawi crisis, which forced the President to place Mindanao under martial law.
A week later, he appeared in a propaganda video where he echoed the demands of the terrorists.
Soganub was rescued on September 16, 2017.
The rescue came after the Philippine military said some of the militants sent text messages that they were ready to surrender on condition that they would not be killed and would be treated humanely.
In late October, the five-month siege that left 1,100 people dead was declared over by the military.
Combat operations ended after the government troops recovered 42 bodies of the last group of militants.