Violence broke out in Marawi on the afternoon of May 23 when extremists from the Maute terrorist group descended upon the city, firing gunshots and putting up ISIS flags. Three fires broke out, razing a city jail, a Christian school, and a chapel. It is unclear whether it was purposely set by the extremists or simply a result of the fighting.
Marawi is in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Many Christians in regions of Mindanao, a group of islands forming the southwestern part of the Philippines, are facing constant pressure and violence. This region accounts for about one third of the territory of the Philippines, and is home to 22 million people (around 25 percent of the whole population). Approximately 63 percent of the population is Christian, and one third is Muslim.
Especially affected by persecution are the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi where Christian converts are vastly outnumbered by a majority population of Muslims. While the Philippines is not listed on the World Watch List, which lists the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, Mindanao, while only a small part of the country, is a region of significant persecution.
The main source of persecution in Mindanao is Islamic extremism, which especially targets Muslim background believers from the Islamic Sama and Tausug people groups. Those people are famous as “Sea Gypsies”, and they live mainly on Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi islands, though many have now migrated to the region’s main island, Mindanao, for economic reasons. Christians also live on those islands and on Mindanao.
We grieve, Father, over the death and destruction that has overtaken Marawi City. We pray that You will bring comfort to the hearts of Christians and others who live in Marawi. Holy Spirit, where the enemy, Satan, would bring terror to the hearts of the people, where he would turn their eyes from You to the power of the enemy, we pray that You will draw their eyes to Jesus, their Savior, to the power of the one who has given eternal life through His own suffering and death. Grant them wisdom from Your Word that they might respond to their circumstances in godly, countercultural ways. In the midst of their suffering, may the light of Christ in them be evident and draw many into saving faith, that the spiritual darkness that has so long shrouded the region of Mindanao in terror would be dispelled and the name of Christ be lifted high. In the name of Jesus, who came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Amen.