Philippines: CAFOD calls for peace as violence leaves thousands homeless

 The Catholic aid agency CAFOD is urging a peaceful resolution following attacks allegedly by groups linked to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and subsequent counter attacks and bombings by government troops on villages and towns in Lanao del Norte and other parts of Mindanao. So far, over 20,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and 38 people have been killed in the last two days. CAFOD staff member in Mindanao, Carino Antequisa, said: "The situation is very tense. People are very scared of the possibility of more attacks from both sides. "Schools have been taken over by the evacuees and classes suspended. Parents and children have been separated. The situation is expected to get worse and I fear many more people will be displaced. We must act quickly to help those in need and find a way towards a peaceful solution. This is even more vital following mixed messages from both sides as to whether the peace deal is still possible. " CAFOD partners Pakigdait and ECOWEB, who work in the affected communities, are distributing rice, mats and other relief supplies to the displaced. They have set up a registration service to help reunite families and are offering trauma counselling. The organisations are also lobbying for peace talks to get back on track. South East Asia's programme manager for CAFOD Alex Cooney said: "CAFOD will be providing support to our partners to carry out relief work and ensure people's needs are met in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. "It's vital for peace-talks to resume with participation at all levels as these events are creating further divisions in the communities in Mindanao. "

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