In May, ISIS-affiliated militants took control of Marawi, a Muslim-majority city in the Philippines. Since that time, Muslim citizens of that city have been hiding Christians who are under threat of being exterminated by the militants bent on turning Marawi into a caliphate.
On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, three Christians who had been hiding in their Muslim employer’s basement since the militant invasion in May escaped to the Philippine-military-controlled area of the city. Speaking to the police and The New York Times, these three men told their story of hiding from the militants and just narrowly escaping death. One of the men, Nick Andilig, said the militants “claimed to be ISIS out on mission to cleanse the city.”
Ian Torres said while they were hiding with two other people—a man and his pregnant wife—they could only hear what was going on outside. “We heard them shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and asking neighbors about religion… If they could not answer questions about Quran verses, gunfire immediately followed.”
Torres and Andilig were part of a group of five workers from Iligan City, about 25 miles north of Marawi. The group was hired to do renovation work on a house owned by a prominent trader, who happened to be Muslim. Andilig called their employer “a good Muslim” and recounted how he saved their lives by hiding the five of them in his basement and then telling militants there were no Christians in his house. The employer escaped afterward, leaving food for the workers. After the food ran out and forays into the war-ravaged city were becoming more difficult, the five workers decided to attempt fleeing. However, the man and wife, who is seven-months-pregnant, decided to wait it out since running would likely prove too difficult.
Andilig said, “We…told ourselves that our fate was with the Lord.”
This is not the only story of Muslims helping Christians in Marawi either. The New York Times article also tells the story of five Christian construction workers being hidden and protected by five Muslim police officers for almost three weeks. The officers had an opportunity to flee the city, which is being bombed as the Philippine military attempts to take it back, but decided to stay so they could protect the Christians in their care.
Officer Lidasan says the militants are “not real Muslims” because “real Muslims will not hurt people unprovoked, regardless of religion.”
After getting word that the army was going to bomb their hideout area, the officers and the Christians made their escape, just barely making it out of the fighting zone. A few of them were wounded, including Mr. Aleko, a Christian. Despite this, Aleko says “I thank God for these officers” and his chance at a “second life.”
Muslims and Christians living in harmony is not a rare thing in Marawi. In fact, religious harmony has become expected in several nations throughout southeast Asia. Andilig testified to this fact by saying, “I have many friends who are Muslim… It was never a problem in the past.”
Judging by the statements made about “good” and “real” Muslims, it’s apparent that the militants are seen as anomalies to Islam. They do not practice their faith as others do in the region. That’s not to say there haven’t been any problems in the past, but this new breed of ISIS-inspired, violence-inducing Islam is concerning.