Ali Visited the Barra Barangay (district) in Cagayan de Oro city today, 3 hours east of Marawi, where around 1000 internally displaced peoples (IDPs) have been living over the past five months since the start of the war with ISIS that destroyed their hometown. The IDPs have been displaced all over the country, some here, some in Iligan, some in Davao, some in Cebu, and some in Manila, totaling 395,000 estimated people. There were only 200,000 in Marawi, so some of them left from neighboring towns out of fear of the spread of ISIS. They have lost their homes and jobs, with no real hope of returning for some of them.Interviewed with one of the heads of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) here today, who were giving out 2000 pesos (40 dollars) per person for ten days of work (200 pesos per day) that they each performed this month to clean up the neighborhood and highway. That was the deal: work and get paid. They had received 1000 pesos each last month as a free handout, and per the government are entitled to 5000 each as per the monetary allocation decided upon, meaning they still have 2000 left for next month. DSWD has yet to decide whether that will also be a ‘work for cash’ deal.
The last two photos show the first IDP’s returning to Marawi yesterday. There will be around 1500-3000 people returning on a daily basis based on predetermined locations. The first location chosen was the barangay of Basik Malutlut, where the house of the emir of ISIS Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, was shelled on the first day of the war by a preemptive strike next to a mosque where foreign fighters had gathered for a week under a pretense of a Muslim religious holiday before the holy month of Ramadan. Symbolic and political in its choice? Probably. But the important thing is that these poor victims of unnecessary war get to go home. Hopefully the ones met today are able to return home soon as well.
ruins of the city, and the other next to the shelled remains of the house of the emir of ISIS Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed on October 16th in a firefight with the military.
Back in May, one week before the war started, the second mosque, which is the largest in Philippines and can hold 10,000 people, was used as a meeting place for foreigners under the guise of a religious holiday before the holy fasting month of Ramadan. They then stayed in the city to join the already planned siege, and the final ISIS fighters to die last week when the war ended were actually foreigners. The congregation of the mosque deny that any fighters originated from there, and they say Hapilon himself never came to the mosque, but I question how much of that is true. We will never know. Rather than deny that a problem may have originated from gatherings in the confines of a mosque, going forward it is essential for the Muslims in Marawi, and all over the world, to acknowledge that these ideologies tend to arise from their buildings and institutions of worship. The first sermons in 5 months were given today and they talked about peace because that is what Islam preaches at its core. But that message must be steadfastly repeated by the ‘ulamas’, or religious leaders, if the rise of terrorism in this city and around the world has any chance of being defeated in the long term. They must be aware of all that is being said and all who are coming to worship, at all times. They are responsible for the education of their worshippers, and miseducation, or lack thereof, cannot be tolerated anymore. It is the responsibility of the elders to spread the right message. Hopefully, from this horrible war,they now have this realization. We shall see. In the meantime.