Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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ISIS-inspired Terror in Mindanao
As a Filipino, I am in anguish and heartbroken at what’s happening in Marawi City in the province of Lanao del Sur in
Mindanao. It has been more than a month since the fighting between the Philippine Armed Forces and the Maute Group —
an ISIS-inspired terrorist group — began and it hasn’t stopped. Marawi City is completely destroyed, thousands of civilians
have been displaced, hundreds have been killed (and still counting), and the future is bleak for those who will survive and
find their homes and property completely gone. Apparently, Marawi City has been chosen by the Maute Group to become its
Islamic State. Christians were meant to be ousted from their lands and killed, and only Muslims or Maranaws were planned
to be kept alive. Authorities revealed that several foreign terrorists from Malaysia and Indonesia were with the Maute Group
when the attack happened. President Duterte declared martial law in the entire island of Mindanao in response to this terror
attack.

As of this writing, casualties reported are as follows: 268 militants (including 8 foreigners); 66 government forces (10 by
friendly fire); and 45 civilians. More than 110 military personnel have been wounded and hundreds of civilians cramped in
evacuation centers suffer from various illnesses. The strength of the terror group has been underestimated by the
government because the military training, number of militants, and fire power of the enemy are beyond the expectations of
government forces. For one, the Marawi siege was well planned by the terrorists and they seem to have no shortage of
bullets. The Maute Group also uses children as young as 10-years-old as “soldiers.” It was reported that children have
been trained in secret hideaways, and brainwashed to create suicide bombers among them.

There’s no certainty as to when the fight to regain Marawi City will end. There’s no certainty as to whether or not the
terrorists would be wiped out or captured. For all we know, some of them could have joined civilians who had been rescued
by government forces!

What pains me at this point is the certainty that some people might use this situation to further alienate our Muslim brothers
and sisters. Some Christians have already voiced out negative comments in the social media, pointing out that Islam
extremists started from being “regular” Muslims until they “graduate” into Christian haters. But I am glad that on the ground,
our Muslim brothers and sisters in Marawi and neighboring areas are helping Christians in the war zone survive. Some of
them even teach Christians basic Muslim conversational dialogue and verses from the Qu’ran just in case they encounter
Mautes in some checkpoints. It is a matter of life and death. Mautes behead non-Muslims without any provocation. It is
simply their way of “cleansing” a place of people who do not share their belief.

Recently, the Maute brothers’ father, mother, a sister and her boyfriend, were arrested in various places and are now in the
custody of the government. Hopefully, the Maute leaders would be next. Reportedly, only a few barangays are still under the
Mautes’ forces, although more than 2,000 civilians are still trapped in the war zone. Snipers are everywhere it seems, that is
why civilians who want to escape are scared to do so. A few are able to run and leave the place despite the heavy exchange
of fire. They’d rather risk their lives escaping than staying and ending up dead anyway.

My heart goes to the heroes of Marawi — the government soldiers who offered their lives in the service of the country, and
as I share the sadness of their families for losing them, I equally share their pride and honor. I pray that their loved ones’
burden be light, knowing that their heroes have joined our Lord in heaven. I am also proud of our wounded soldiers, whose
bravery is beyond compare. Many of them would like to go back to Marawi City and fight again, despite their medical
conditions. Hats off to you all!

Please help me pray for the eventual victory of the Philippine government versus the local terror group, the Maute. Our
society should not, cannot, and will never, tolerate the presence of such an ISIS-inspired group in our midst. Terrorism has
no place in a society of peaceful people. Christians and Muslims live together in peace in this country, and extremists want
to destroy that peace. It is time for Filipinos — Christians and Muslims alike —to shout in unison “We are Filipinos, and we
will fight against terror groups that seek to sow hatred in our hearts, overthrow our democratic government, and subjugate
our citizens in any form.”