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 . . .