This week, I read a headline titled: “Filipino Muslim Saves 64 Christians From Execution by Islamist Militants.” Google it. It’ll be a story hosted by one or two major news outlets.
Here's the short version:
A group called the Islamic State of Lanao, reportedly backed by Isis, entered the city of Marawi during the week of June 9th and began combat with the Filipino army. The group seeks to occupy a Filipino island, Mindanao, where the population is largely Muslim. They’ve long attempted to form an enclave on the island, and have thus targeted Christians in doing so. Reportedly, 90% of the population has managed to escape.
The hero of this headline is Norodin Alonto Lucman. He provided refuge for 71 citizens, 64 of whom were Christian, and was quoted as saying that militants would get to them “over my dead body.” Within a few days, under the threat of starvation, Lucman led the group out of the city waving white flags, and when questioned of their religion, the group responded “Allahu akbar,” thus granting their safety.
This escape is no major reassurance; the city is still very much in danger. Since the initial attacks in early June, 290 civilians have died; there is only so much that people like Lucman can do. The government declared martial law as a means of heightening safety against insurgents, but the tension encountered in doing so may prompt repeal of that law. American troops have entered Marawi, but are reportedly prevented from engaging in combat. Their role, as the spokesperson for Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte claims, “does not involve any boots on the ground.” Marawi, according to the The New York Times, is no longer home to 200,000, but is a ghost town.
This story, like so many others, is another list of facts. We have a few numbers, a name mentioned halfway through, and a sense of detachment. The 71 people that escaped are described as walking through streets filled with rotting corpses and debris. Their situation is largely framed as helpless; there is neither a sense of hope nor of change given to the people there.
Mindanao is in a state of crisis, and though their situation can’t be helped as easily, it is important that we be aware of their plight. As aforementioned, only one or two major news outlets have covered this; why are they treated with lesser attention? Spread information as it is found, and recall that they are not the “other.” Irrespective of class, color, and creed, this story is about a man helping his fellow citizens survive.
Do not forget Marawi.