When you hear about the Islamic State you tend to think of places in the Middle East like Iraq and Syria, but not Southeast Asia or the Philippines.
So, it might surprise you to hear that over 1,100 people in the Philippines were killed in 2017 when Islamic State radicals rose to power and occupied the Philippine city of Marawi for five months.
Flooded with foreign Muslim fighters, the Christian nation was overwhelmed by violence as the foreign fighters joined with local Muslim rebels to try and take over the country.
In the intense fighting that followed, Marawi was utterly destroyed as the Philippine army battled the Muslim rebels in an attempt to retake the city.
Their battle was successful and the Islamic State in the Philippines was driven back underground, but the city of Marawi now sits as a ghost town of rubble—a scene that mirrors the destruction seen in the Middle East wherever the Islamic State has taken power.
Sadly, the violence from Muslim extremists has not ended.
You see, when Muslim radicals are driven underground, they simply transition to asymmetric warfare, employing terrorist tactics to strike from the shadows and continue to instill fear in the surrounding population.
Since the destruction of Marawi, there has also been a surge in death threats against Church leaders and other Christians across the nation.
Not only that, but three Catholic priests have been murdered in terrorist attacks just in the past six months. The most recent victim, Friar Richmond Nilo, was shot inside his chapel while preparing to say Mass.
While Christians have protested in the street in solidarity against this violence, some are taking a particular bit of advice from Jesus more seriously than ever.
In Luke 22:36, Jesus tells his disciples, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
Since the surge in death threats and murders, almost 250 clergymen in the Philippines have sought permits to carry a firearm in order to protect themselves and their congregations from radical Muslim violence.
“We have received 246 requests for Permits to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence from 188 priests and 58 ministers, preachers and pastors,” said Philippines National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde.
The police chief would not confirm whether the requests for permits had been, or will be, approved.
Sadly, gun rights are fairly restricted in the Philippines. Citizens are only allowed to own two “short-range” weapons, which they must leave secure in their homes.
Carrying licenses are rarely issued, and the gun owner must prove his life is “deemed to be under immediate threat,” which then requires an assessment and approval from the Philippines National Police.
The assessment is sometimes waived for those whose profession puts them “in imminent danger,” such as religious figures, but it remains to be seen if the government will do so in this case.
Please pray for the safety of all Christians in the Philippines as they face the source of radical Islam.