As the Filipino government continues to fight ISIS-backed militants for control of Marawi city, local Muslims are coming to the aid of their Christian neighbors despite the dangers associated with doing so. Since the terrorists took control of the major metropolis late last month, residents have found their city nearly uninhabitable, with corpses strewn throughout the streets and armed extremists threatening the lives of those who remain.
Although the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, Marawi has a large Muslim population. In the midst of the ISIS-led stronghold, it is the Christians who find themselves in particular danger. Jihadists seized at least one Catholic church in the city, taking a priest and parishioners hostage.
But as the Christian Post reports, those that remain are finding refuge. There are a growing number of examples of Muslims helping their Christian neighbors. Lenny Paccon opened her home to more than 50 people and subsequently helped them escape the area.
“We had a tip from the general commander that we should go out,” said Paccon, who helped 54 people, including 44 Christians. “When I got the text, immediately we go out… about 7 o’clock.”
Meanwhile, more than 200 civilians were able to gain freedom over the weekend after a daring walkout was staged. According to The National, Norodin Alonto Lucman, the former vice governor of a Muslim self-ruled area within Marawi, had been hiding 71 Christians in his home. On Saturday, he led them and hundreds more “through downtown streets held by self-styled ISIL fighters and strewn with rotting corpses.”
The exodus occurred after people began receiving text messages warning of an imminent assault. Armed with white flags, Lucman led his convoy through the streets and others joined in along the way.
“As we walked, others joined us,” he said. “We saved ourselves.”
A Christian construction worker, Jamie Daligdig, said that militants were stopping people and demanding to know if they were Christians, but anyone who shouted “Allah Akbar” was allowed to pass.
Malawi remains under 60 days martial law imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte, but the military appears to be preparing for a much longer fight. Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that while militants only control 10 percent of the city, significant obstacles remain.
“Complications have been coming out,” he said, “[like] the continued use of civilians, potential hostages that may still be in their hands, the use of places of worship… and other factors that complicates the battle because of its urban terrain.”
(h/t Christian Post)