The city of Marawi located on Mindano, the second largest island in the Philippines, has been the site of an ongoing armed conflict between government forces and ISIS backed Philippine rebels. And as the number of casualties from the conflict has continued to rise into the thousands so has the intensity of the persecution of non-Muslims who were trapped in the city when the conflict erupted on May 23rd of this year.
As the only way out of the city is by bridge, militants in black masks began to heavily guard the pass ensuring only loyal Muslims are granted the right to pass through. That’s when a local Muslim leader began locating and moving local Christians away from there homes and the streets into his rice mill.
Once in the mill the Muslim leader provided a change of clothes for each individual conforming to Islamic standards for each sex and then began teaching the rescued group about the basic tenets if Islam and how to answer likely questions they might face while navigating the streets during their planned escape from the city.
According to the city’s Catholic Bishop Edwin de la Peña the plan was a success and at least one group made it safely outside of the city and beyond the Islamic rebel’s reach. Sadly, the Bishop also reported that many others were not so lucky when stopped and questioned in the streets. Those who failed to answer appropriately or who took the bold stance and proclaimed their Christianity were killed and their bodies thrown into a local ravine.
Although the initial overthrow of the local government came as a surprise to almost all of the residents, Christians were left particularly unprepared vulnerable to the armed invaders and militants who left their churches and a cathedral in ruins and ashes and surrounded by the bodies of those who had been present.
In the face of such violence God reminds us that
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold”
“They too will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one Shepherd”
As the world seems awash in a tide of religious violence, global extremism, and political polarization He reminds us that He is still in control and that He has yet many who will hear His voice and at His appointed time will join into a single flock under the watchful eye of the almighty shepherd Jesus Christ.