Philippines (MNN) — Just when it seemed like things were settling down in the Philippines, conflict between government soldiers and ISIS-linked fighters reignited.
On Thursday, the Philippine army launched an air strike in the southern city of Marawi to flush out up to 40 fighters hiding in the city. At least 20 people have been killed in the conflict, including soldiers, police officers, and civilians.
“I really don’t know how it will go on,” Herman Moldez, the Philippines Country Director for Asian Access, says. “I think this is the reason why the president declared martial law, so that he can really pursue them very well.”
Fighting erupted Tuesday after a failed attack on the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the terrorist group Abu Sayaaf, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law the same day for the southern island of Mindanao.
Wednesday saw a brief lull in the fighting, which the majority of Marawi’s 200,000 residents saw as an opportunity to leave the city. But despite the situation’s uncertainty, many believers are choosing to remain for the sake of sharing the Gospel.
“I think the situation as far as the spread of the Gospel just continues on,” Moldez says. “Those who are in the mission activity and the church activity, they’re just continuing on as if nothing is happening because this is not widespread; this is localized and contained.”
Not everyone, however, including believers, are on the same page regarding the government’s tactics.
“The reactions and responses are not united as far as the believers are concerned,” Moldez says. “So those of us who are staying in Luzon and the Basilan island would be different in our responses compared to those who are actually living in Mindanao. The overwhelming things we are hearing from the Mindanao believers, they welcome the creation of martial law.
“So what we need to pray for is more unity among us, and that we will be more discerning in terms of trying to understand the situation. You know, there are many things being posted in the social media. That requires a lot of discernment. Continue to pray for safety and that this will not escalate to more violence and so on.”
Moldez also asks that you pray that churches in the Philippines would be watchful as to how martial law progresses in the country, and that everyone, including God’s people, would be kept safe.
“This is not politically motivated,” Moldez says. “This is just to respond to this terrorist attack. And that’s why even Congress is not taking this discussion. But we need to watch that, because the president is saying he may declare martial [law] to the entire island, the whole Philippines.
“So we need wisdom to be watchful and vigilant, to be prayerful of course and continue to pray that there would not be any attack to churches that will create another reaction and the whole situation would be out of control.”