Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob in a still taken from an IS propaganda video posted on 30 May last year.
Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob in a still taken from an IS propaganda video posted on 30 May last year.

One year after Islamist militants stormed the southern Philippines city of Marawi and 8 months since his escape from his kidnappers, Catholic priest Father Teresito Suganob is trying to find healing for himself and his nation, reported UCAN.

Father Suganob was one of around 200 people who were taken hostage by the Islamists when they stormed the city on 23 May, 2017.

He was rescued on 16 September amidst heavy fighting between the Islamic State affiliated Maute group and the Philippines military.

The priest told the Catholic news agency that during his four months’ captivity, he “was not afraid to die, but I was afraid to suffer”.

“I was angry with God for putting me in such a horrible situation. However, my faith in the Lord did not waiver. In fact it even became deeper…I prayed more feverishly than I used to do, with death staring us straight in the face. Anytime, a bomb or a bullet could hit anyone of us during the fierce fighting between the two sides”.

‘Feeling human when the enemy dies’

During captivity he got to know his kidnappers and he actually felt sad when one of them died. “You cannot avoid feeling human even when the enemy dies. We transcend from being a captive and a hostage taker,” he said.

“We became friends,” the priest added. “We talked together, we slept together, we had the same fears.”

He now travels around the country to speak about the need for inter-religious dialogue and understanding between Muslims and Christians.

He himself is still healing. The experiences and memories of bombs exploding around him, fear of suffering and facing death are “very devastating, your inner being is destroyed”, he said.

“If it is difficult to rebuild a building, how much more a person?” the priest said, adding, “It is very difficult to rebuild the inner being”.