MARAWI CITY – An ISIS propaganda video has surfaced on social media on Monday that showed its fighters desecrating the Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur.
The clip, believed to have been taken during the first week of the ISIS siege of Marawi, showed militants stomping and smashing statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints, including a huge statue of Jesus Christ nailed on the wooden cross.
They also tore and burn pages of the holy Bible and photographs of Pope Francis at the Cathedral’s altar. Militants also destroyed and burned the Credence Table, Tabernacle, the Ambo and Presider’s Chair while chanting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Great” before retreating away from the church. They also abducted its priest Father Chito Suganob along with other church workers.
The video lasted about 1 minute and 45 seconds and also appeared on the ISIS website.
Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Muslim autonomous region, condemned the desecration of the cathderal and branded the attack as inhumane, unacceptable and un-Islamic.
“This is inhumane and unacceptable – their acts mirror that of the Khawarij and their belief betrays those of our faith. These terrorists are nothing but hypocrites who undermine the true essence of Islam. They are un-Islamic,” he said.
Hataman said the acts of the Maute Group, the Abu Sayyaf, and their ilk show that they are unfortunate reincarnations of the Khawarij — “they who recite the Quran, but the words do not pass beyond their throats, and who leave the religion as an arrow leaves its target and do not return as the arrow does not return to its bow. They are the worst of the creation,” he said.
He said the militants were immature and reckless, and quoting the Qu’ran and Hadith in perverse ways that fit their equally perverse cause. “These infidels who represent the Khawarij of our time must be condemned and shunned away from the Muslim ummah, for they are unworthy of the promises of Allah and the pleasures of jannah (paradise).”
“The Prophet himself (peace be upon him) did not come to deprive those who did not follow him. Instead, he upheld their dignity and honor, and reminded us to treat others fairly regardless of faith, status, or ancestry. When the Christians of Narjan arrived in Medina during the time of the Prophet, they were not shunned away nor were they humiliated. Instead, they were allowed to pray in the mosques where Muslims also prayed. They were given a place to stay near the home of the prophet, and Muslims themselves helped the Christians pitch their tent,” Hataman said.
He said covenants of the Prophet with Christians from various places show kindness and compassion towards Christians, offering them protection and aid. “The Prophet forbids desecration of churches, much more destroying them. Instead, he said that his horsemen and armies will protect Christians, as well as their churches and other places Christians deem sacred,” he said, adding, “it is our responsibility as Muslims to denounce the actions of the members of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf, and all other local groups whose actions are a disservice to Islam — a faith that promotes compassion, kindness and peace. Let us not allow these terrorists to hijack and destroy Islam. We cannot and must not tolerate them, and we must make sure that they are brought to justice.”
Sporadic clashes also continue in Marawi and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said more than 2,400 civilians are still stranded and trapped in the fighting, although over 3,700 people had been safely rescued, according Hataman.
He said over 235,000 people were affected by the violence and that some 130,000 have been assisted served by social workers in different evacuation areas in Iligan and Marawi cities, and in the towns of Baloi, Bubong, Pantar and Saguiaran, all in Lanao del Sur, including house-based civilians. Humanitarian assistance continues, he said.
But at least 5 dozen people were also reported missing and 22 had been killed since the clashes began on May 23 when armed militants occupied the city in an effort to establish a “wilayah” or province of the Islamic State in the restive region.
Hataman said more than 22,000 students and over 2,000 teachers were also affected by the fighting which is now on its third week.
While the number of evacuees continues to increase, donations from various individuals and organizations are also pouring in to help ease the plight of those displaced by the hostilities, according to Hataman. “Hanggat may IDPs, patuloy and pagbibigay natin ng relief goods,” he said.
Hataman said while the regional government continues to call for donations, it has also earmarked some P100 million in relief assistance to families adversely affected by the crisis.
Myrna Jo Henry, a spokeswoman for the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency and Action Response Team (HEART), said that most of the donations come from private individuals, small organizations and government offices from all over Mindanao and the rest of the country. “These donations are distributed by the ARMM-HEART to internally displaced persons who are staying either at homes of relatives or in designated evacuation centers,” she said, adding, even ARMM employees have also been active in raising funds and donations since the crisis broke out.
She said they have distributed a total of 20,000 bottles of water and 10,000 relief packs to evacuees in Iligan City during the early days of the crisis. So far, she said a total of 26,082 families or 130,410 people have been provided with food and non-food items.
A 20-year old student in Cotabato City, Amino Sahabuddin, also launched a donation drive with his classmates and urged their professors to do the same. He said even small donations will make a big difference for those affected by the fighting.
“We cannot help them all, but at least we could help some of those who are affected by the war. Kahit ‘yung isang araw na maitawid mo ang gutom ng (isang evacuee) ay malaking bagay na,” Sahabuddin said.
He now collects small amounts of money and gathers food packs and used clothing for the refugees and delivers all these to the operation center of the ARMM HEART.
Just over the weekend, security forces battling local ISIS fighters rescued over 180 civilians trapped in the war-torn city, but one villager was shot dead by a sniper while running to his freedom, according to Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, adding troops continue to brave the dangerous streets on Marawi to rescue the civilians.
Petinglay said troops continue battling militants and were searching house-to-house for jihadists and civilians.
Brigadier General Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of military forces fighting the militants, also renewed appeals to the public and urged citizens to help authorities fight terrorism. “We call on our people to stand and unite against terrorism. The fight against terrorism is not the sole duty of the security sector but the responsibility of everyone,” he said.
The military said troops had killed at least 120 militants, but only recovered 42 bodies of jihadists, including 98 assorted weapons, from an automatic rifle to machine guns, left behind by the ISIS fighters, mostly members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. But over 3 dozen soldiers also perished in the violence with dozens more injured in fierce urban and close-quarter clashes. (Mindanao Examiner)
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