Rick Gregory, Writer

Translating Messages From Heads To Hearts

Ground Zero – Philippines

I used to think Ground Zero meant only NYC and the Twin Towers. Now I know differently. There’s another place, here in the Philippines, where Ground Zero is equally appalling and real. It’s in a place called The Islamic City of Marawi, at the northwest tip of Lake Lanao in the Philippine province of Lanao del Sur. Between May and October in 2017, IS-affiliated soldiers attacked and held the city hostage in an attempt to create and sustain an Islamic Caliphate on the Island of Mindanao.

After a 5-month siege and the Philippine Army killing nearly 1,000 radicals, the occupation finally came to an end. According to Reuters, “Hundreds of militants, 165 soldiers and at least 45 civilians were killed in the five-month conflict. President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2017 declared the city liberated, and its rehabilitation officially underway.

But there is little sign of progress.”

And as you might imagine . . . this place isn’t on most bucket lists to visit. Just over a month ago, the US State Department said:

do not travel to:

But we did travel there — about an eight-hour trip from our place in Davao City. And I’m so glad we did, though we weren’t aware at the time how potentially dangerous it was to be there!

Why, you ask, would I be glad to have been there? Because it is a blatant reminder that we live in a bubble — and the freedom in which we live is so rare in this part of the world. In Marawi during that time, Christians were summarily executed if they couldn’t recite the Shahada (Muslim expression of faith). They were shot, or their throats were slit. Thousands of people (over 300,000!) were forced from their homes, and it’s only been in recent months that they’ve begun to return to live there. The area is still under Sharia rule and remains highly volatile. And we gripe, scream, and complain about the silliest things.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the disparity in how these dear ones live compared to how unfettered we are. Friends, I fear we’ve lost track of what is important. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think is important to you today . . .

2 thoughts on “Ground Zero – Philippines”

  1. Aaron dale moore

    Thanks Rick, once again you have managed to prick my soul. The world is not a kind place. I do live in a bubble, and can easily neglect His calling. Stay safe brother.

  2. You are absolutely correct Rick. We (the church) here in America do not know or understand what it even means to face persecution. We prefer to find rest in our comfortable little lives because it’s easy. We love our little bubbles we live in because it’s safe…. And yet we can still find the time to complain and whine about the silliest most unimportant things in our lives…. Gas and food prices, taxes, traffic, internet and phone service, and the store ran out of my favorite shampoo…. What’s the world coming to? I think the American church needs a reality check! As the church, we need to focus on what’s important… the gospel being preached and lived out in our lives. As an old pastor friend of mine used to say “my friends, we need to stop majoring in the minors of our lives”. How true this is! Churches need to stop focusing (and complaining) about our differences and “major” in what’s important. I pray God will pour out His Spirit in these last days and the Church will rise up and be who Jesus called us to be…. Light and salt in a dark world. No longer conforming to the world we live in but transforming it for Gods glory.

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