In Marawi City, Filippino Muslims shelter Christians from jihadist militants
"You will have to kill me first before you even touch them."
FARIDA, a Muslim
store owner in Marawi City, had no choice but to let the terrorists that barged
in her store last May 24 plunder her goods and products. But when the armed men
turned their attention to her 13 male employees huddled in a corner of the
store, Farida looked the men in the eyes and told them in Maranao, “You will
have to kill me first before you even touch them.”
The terrorists, mostly in their teens, sensed the
seriousness of Farida’s resolve and contented themselves with their loot.
Farida knew she had to resort to such extreme measure to prevent any
interaction between the gunmen and her employees who were mostly Christian
migrants from nearby provinces. They have worked for almost a decade for
Farida. Had the gunmen talked to them, it would be immediately found out that
they were Christians and they would have been taken along with their families.
After the terrorists fled, Farida immediately ordered all
her employees to hide in a relative’s house. She then contacted an uncle to
facilitate the escape of her Christian employees by boat to cross the Maranao
lake, and from there travel safely towards Iligan City. Farida’s story was
published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), one of the nation’s most
In their language, Maranao means people of the lake as the
elevated city of Marawi is located along the shores of the majestic and placid
Lake Lanao. The Maranaos are the largest of the thirteen ethnic Muslim groups
in the Philippines with each group having its own culture, literary tradition,
and language. They are known for their music, epics, and textiles. They are
also famous for their trading skills which let Marawi City flourish as a
business hub from the early 1900s.
As skilled tradespeople, the Maranaos are among the more
affluent Muslim groups in the Philippines and Marawi City is one of the few
places in the country where Christians from nearby provinces work for Muslim
employers. Some Christians have decided to migrate to Marawi thanks to the good
treatment of Muslim employers like Farida, who lets her workers live in their
Other stories like that of Farida’s have been reported in
various Philippine newspapers in recent days. There is also the story of
Zaynab, a humanitarian worker who personally went along with 20 Christians along
a 15-hour alternate route to avoid the gridlock of fleeing residents north of
Marawi City. “I never minded the danger. I was prepared to die first before they
(terrorists) could harm the Christians,” Zaynab told reporters.
The Philippine Star recounted
how a Muslim prosecutor sheltered 42 Christians in a building that he owns
before facilitating their escape in small groups. It also published a story
about how seven Christians studying in Mindanao State University were trapped
in their dormitories for days with three other Muslims. All throughout the
ordeal, the Muslims assured their Christian schoolmates that should they be
captured, they would never forsake them.
Marawi City Bishop Edwin dela Peña told international
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need how a local Muslim official advised
the family of his personal driver and their other Christian companions about
what they should tell the terrorists in the event of a confrontation. He then
personally led them to buses that would take them to safety in Iligan City. “I would consider him a hero for leading
these group of Christians and Muslims together, trying to flee from the danger
that was awaiting them,” Bishop dela Peña said.
Devastation in Marawi City