RLPB 420. Philippines: Marawi Crisis Needs Urgent Prayer
PHILIPPINES: MARAWI CRISIS NEEDS URGENT PRAYER
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
After a full three months of fighting, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now in control of all but a half-kilometre grid square of Marawi city. To date, the Battle for Marawi has claimed the lives of 573 militants, 128 soldiers and police and at least 45 civilians. The AFP’s progress has been slowed and complicated by the fact that the jihadists — members of Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, both of which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State — have planted numerous Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) and retained civilian captives as human shields. AFP spokesman, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr, told reporters on 20 August, ‘The main battle area remains complex with the continued discovery of many IEDs and unexploded ordinance … But operations are progressing very well, and we have had no one killed in action for the last eight days. Unfortunately, two soldiers lost their legs because of tripping into IEDs that were left in a building that they were clearing.’
Just before midnight on 3 August, four male hostages — Rumar Marjalino, his brother Rowel, Jimmy Esperat (all from Zamboanga) and Delfin Lapas of Iligan City — made a daring escape. Using a concealed mobile phone, they contacted the AFP which organised to rescue the men one kilometre out into Lake Lanao. Escapee Rumar Marjalino (38) attributed their success to God’s intervention. ‘That night,’ he reports, ‘not a single sniper fired his shot. Not a single sound was heard … We hurried until we reached the lake and we were told to swim 1,000 meters. Despite the heavy waves, we stayed together. God was there. God is good.’
The men were reunited with their families on Sunday 13 August before being taken to Camp Don Basilio Navarro Hospital for a medical examination. En route to the hospital they all stopped off at La Naval Chapel to offer prayers of thanks for their deliverance.
The escapees report that between 50 and 60 local and foreign jihadists remain holed up in Marawi’s Grand Mosque along with 46 civilian captives, of whom 20 are women and 13 are children, the youngest being only two-years-old. During the day the terrorists strap remotely controlled explosive devices to the bodies of the adult male hostages before sending them out to gather food and supplies from abandoned stores and mobile phones from dead bodies. On several occasions male hostages were strapped with explosives, armed and sent out to fire on AFP troops; those who refused were immediately executed. On one occasion, 14 hostages were strapped with explosives, placed on the front-line and ordered to fire on AFP tanks. The AFP returned fire, killing all the hostages, believing they were terrorists. As a last resort, the terrorists plan to use the hostages as human bombs to kill AFP troops. When they are not out performing tasks for the jihadists, the hostages are guarded in the mosque by armed child-soldiers. The escapees report that Father Suganob is alive and that his primary task is to gather gunpowder from firecrackers. The escapees tried to convince Father Suganob to escape with them, but he refused to abandon the other captives.
According to the Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Murad Ebrahim, jihadist violence is but a consequence of the lack of a political solution in Mindanao where Muslim separatists have been fighting the government for decades. According to Ebrahim, peace can only be secured through the establishment of an autonomous MILF-ruled Bangsamoro political entity under Islamic Sharia law. President Duterte agrees and has vowed to ‘support and husband’ the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress to ensure its passage. The implications for Christians and the Lumad (non-Muslim indigenous tribal peoples) are enormous, despite guarantees that Sharia would not apply to them. Naturally, all Muslims in the Bangsamoro would be subject to Sharia law. Guarantees that constitutional rights would be protected by the Supreme Court will not comfort anyone who has observed similar dual systems in Muslim Malaysia, Indonesia’s Aceh or Northern Nigeria.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:
* preserve, comfort, encourage and deliver the remaining hostages; may his Spirit uplift them and his angels surround them; may the hostages be very aware that no matter how horrific their circumstances, they have not been abandoned, they are not alone. ‘My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me …’ (Daniel, from Daniel 6)
* bless, encourage, sustain and supply all the area churches whose members are sacrificially opening their homes and expending themselves as they aid and minister to the displaced. ‘And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:19 ESV)
* grace Filipino politicians and constitutional lawyers with insight, wisdom and courage as they consider the Bangsamoro Basic Law; may security, prosperity and development in Mindanao be addressed without the loss of constitutional rights.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
MARAWI CRISIS IN THE PHILIPPINES NEEDS URGENT PRAYER
After three months of fighting, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now in control of all but a small part of Marawi city. The AFP’s progress has been slowed by many improvised explosive devices and the presence of ‘human shields’. Escapees report that some 50 to 60 local and foreign Islamic State-inspired jihadists remain holed up in Marawi’s Grand Mosque with some 46 civilian captives, of whom 20 are women and 13 are children. The more the AFP closes, the more dangerous the situation becomes for the captives, many or most of whom seem to be Christian. May God comfort, preserve and deliver the remaining hostages; and may the situation in Muslim Mindanao be resolved without the loss of constitutional rights. Please pray for the Philippines and its Christians.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).