The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine has elected a prelate displaced by war in the country’s south to lead the Church’s interreligious dialogue efforts.
Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi will head the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue over the next two years.
He will officially assume the post in December, succeeding Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar who retired as Pagadian prelate last year.
Appointed Marawi prelate in 2000, Dela Peña has been working on peacebuilding before Islamic State-inspired terrorists wreaked havoc on the Islamic city in 2017.
The five-month-long armed conflict left a trail of death, destruction, and thousands of internally displaced persons.
After the siege, the Marawi prelature and the Redemptorist Missionaries established Duyog Marawi, a program to help rehabilitate and help promote peace.
Dela Peña said that the most crucial task at hand is to rebuild the peace that Muslims and the small Christian community have been working on.
The bishop was elected to the post during the CBCP plenary assembly in Manila over the weekend, and as the Church prepares for the Year of Interreligious Dialogue, Ecumenism and Indigenous Peoples in 2020.
Since 2013, the Church has embarked on a 9-year preparation with pastoral priority theme every year towards the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021.
Last month, Dela Peña served as the Philippine representative to the IDP Forum in Rome.
“I understand why they put my name because I myself is an IDP, our Church is internally displaced,” he earlier said.
Created by the CBCP in 1990, the ECID is tasked to promote interreligious dialogues among Catholics and people of other faiths in the country.
To promote interfaith harmony, some Muslim leaders were among those who met with Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines in 2015.