Faith

Christians Narrowly Escape Terror in Southeast Asia

And why three countries have now joined together in new maritime patrols and cooperation

Christians living in the Philippine city of Marawi hid and fled for their lives as Islamic extremists threatened the safety of non-Muslims.

Militant groups loyal to the radical Islamic State surged the city on May 23. Since then, extremists have killed hundreds of people, according to reports coming out of the country.

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“The violence erupted Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, who has pledged allegiance to IS,” Time.com reported on May 24. “He is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.”

Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in the Philippines and in the island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located.

“There have been previous reports of the militants threatening or killing Christians, but it is not yet known how many have died,” The New York Times reported from Marawi on June 17.

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Three Christians recently escaped Marawi after hiding out in a basement in the city, The Times reported. As Islamic militants hunted them, the escaped Christians credit a Muslim employer for protecting their lives.

“One of the men, Nick Andilig, 26, said about 50 militants suddenly appeared in the neighborhood where they were working, shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and displaying a black flag,” The Times reported.

“They claimed to be ISIS out on a mission to cleanse the city,” Andilig told the publication.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte declared the region in a state of emergency back in May. The militants seizing Marawi belong to the Maute and the Abu Sayyaf groups, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

“Mr. Andilig said their employer hid the workers in his basement. When the militants reached his door, the workers overheard him arguing with them. ‘He told the gunmen that there were no Christians in the house,’ Mr. Andilig said,” The Times report added.

Related: What You Must Know About the ISIS Attack in the Philippines

This is not the only report of Christians hiding in basements to escape the militants in Marawi. Five Christian construction workers hid out in a basement for three weeks, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

“They survived on tins of sardines, meatloaf, and corned beef, and drums of water that were stored near their construction site,” according to the Australian national public broadcaster. This group of Christians holed up with five Marawi policemen who were also trapped. The Muslim policemen helped protect the Christians.

Related: Recent ISIS Attacks Have a Sick New Theme 

In other instances, Muslims have given Christians hijab head coverings to wear as they escaped the region.

The radical groups have allegedly torched buildings, destroyed churches, kidnapped and killed Christians — even beheaded a police chief.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia will jointly patrol the waters in the area to ramp up security, the countries announced Monday. “This trilateral cooperation is needed to anticipate [the] infiltration possibility of IS-aligned militants from Marawi disguised as refugees,” said Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, Indonesia’s military chief.

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