Religious Liberty Prayer List - No 083 - Wed 20 Sep 2000

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The Moros converted to Islam in the 14th century and resisted the Philippines' Catholic rulers through the Spanish colonial period Today, various militant Moro Muslim insurgent groups continue to struggle against the government for independence

The government secured a peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996, creating an autonomous Muslim region on Mindanao The smaller but better equipped Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF - a break-away faction of MNLF) refused all of President Ramos' peace overtures, demanding a totally independent Muslim State The Abu Sayyaf, which also split from the MNLF to pursue a more fundamentalist battle against the Philippines authorities, has been trying to drive Christians out of its Basilan Island base Analysts say that Abu Sayyaf has received arms and munitions from Afghanistan and has direct links to Osama Bin Laden

The Southern Philippines island of Mindanao has been at the heart of the Filipino Muslim separatist struggle for independence since the early 1970s The situation is exacerbated by the financial disadvantage and lack of government services on Mindanao, as well as the government's failure to ratify peace agreements This has bred discontent, resentment and militancy

The growth of the kidnapping 'industry' in Southern Philippines is directly related to this background In such an environment, Christians in the community are the most vulnerable to being kidnapped or terrorised

This Muslim insurgency has escalated markedly this year MILF violence erupted in January, and on 20 March the Abu Sayyaf raided two schools on the island of Basilan, off Mindanao, abducting around 50 Catholic schoolchildren, teachers and a priest Although the children were eventually released and rescued, the teachers were beheaded and the priest tortured and executed The Abu Sayyaf have since taken other hostages, predominantly foreigners

On 9 July 2000 the MILF's 10,000-hectare Camp Abubakar on Mindanao fell into government hands MILF responded by declaring Jihad (Islamic Holy War) Many Christians have already died and others remain extremely vulnerable Amongst the hostages now held by the Abu Sayyaf are twelve Pentecostal evangelists who had gone in to pray over the hostages but were then not permitted to leave

On 10 September, the Abu Sayyaf seized three more hostages from Malaysia, breaking the patience of President Joseph Estrada who had already witnessed the kidnap industry being supported with over $US15 million paid in ransom for 10 Westerners This included about $US10 million from Libya thus injected into the Muslim insurgency

At dawn on 16 September, the Philippines government launched an assault on the rebel camps in the jungles of Jolo Approximately 10,000 people have fled their homes Malaysia intends to block refugees fleeing the violence from coming ashore in Sabah on the northern tip of Borneo, where Filipino illegal immigrants linked to the Muslim rebels have already been involved in criminal activity (At the time of writing the fate of the hostages is unknown, as are the numbers of fatalities and injured, due to the armed forces imposing a news blackout)


* Christians living in the Southern Philippines where they face
not only a developing civil war, but the threat of terrorism and
kidnap at the hands of Muslim militants

* God's peace and strength for the Christian hostages to be able
to witness and minister to the other captives and to their
captors in the midst of the crisis

* the witness and safety of Christians who minister to Muslim
refugees displaced by the violence (Christians on Mindanao have
been reaching out in love with material aid and comfort through
'Operation Islam')

"But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks
to them in their affliction" Job 36:15

* all Christians in the Philippines as the situation in the south
threatens to inflame religious tensions elsewhere in the nation


The 30-year-long struggle for independence being waged by Islamic militants in the Southern Philippines has escalated markedly this year The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has declared Jihad (Islamic Holy War) on the government and has stepped up its extreme violence against Christians across Mindanao and Southern Philippines The
Abu Sayyaf's intensified kidnap-for-profit campaign has reaped
large ransom payments Their kidnap of three more Malaysians on 10 September triggered President Joseph Estrada to launch a heavy military assault on the rebels Amongst the Abu Sayyaf's foreign hostages are now 12 Filipino evangelists who had gone to pray over the captives but were then held themselves In the midst of the violence, Christians on Mindanao are witnessing and ministering to displaced Muslims through Operation Islam

* The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church *
* To request resources - Australia: IDOP@crossnetorgau *
* Canada: IDOP@efc-canadacom USA: IDOP@xcorg *
* Globally elsewhere: IDOP@ioboxcom *