Marawi liberated from ISIS
Philippines President Duterte declared “Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence” on Tuesday 17 October.
The military took out the two ring leaders behind the five-month siege, which began on 23 May when Islamic State extremists held a Catholic priest hostage and set fire to the local church and bible college.
More than 1,000 people (mostly militants) died during the siege, and around 350,000 people were displaced. And whilst the President has declared the city free from the siege, many extremists are still hiding out in the city. Twenty to thirty people are also still held hostage or as human shields. An operation on 19 October took place to rescue a mother and daughter who had been held against their will.
As the Islamic State has lost territory in Iraq and Syria, they’ve started to assert its presence globally through isolated ‘lone wolf’ attacks or more coordinated actions by organisations that affiliate themselves with the group. In a 20-minute video issued last year, the group actively encouraged supporters to “go to the Philippines”.
Researcher Thomas Muller said that the future of Islamic extremism in the area, “...may much depend on how, and how fast, Marawi can be rebuilt and its citizens can return. The Christian minority could play a major role in rebuilding, in reconciliation and in refusing to let violence have the last word.”
Image: Heavily damaged buildings in Banggolo District, Marawi City. Source: Manman Dejeto, ABC-CBN News
According to the Defence Secretary, that process of rebuilding will cost about $1.95 billion.
“It is a critical moment in the history of Muslim and Christian relations in Marawi,” said the Archbishop. “This will either bring us closer or will widen the gap.”
Pray for our brothers and sisters who have been displaced from their homes or are still in the city of Marawi. Pray for their safety and the boldness to share the gospel with their muslim neighbours.