Philippines (MNN) — Officials are trying to pass legislation allowing for an independent Islamic state on Mindanao, the Philippines’ second-largest island.
The “push” to sign the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) into law grew especially strong this week, as session break and President Benigno Aquino III’s June 11 deadline approach.
However, at press time, Congress had agreed to reschedule the final BBL deadline for October.
Between now and then, your prayers are greatly needed as senators discuss and debate BBL amendments. These alterations could carry serious implications for Filipino Christians.
“They [Filipino Christians] know that once this goes through, probably in a short time they’re going to be forced to leave, or worse,” shares Steve Van Valkenburg, Area Director for Christian Aid Mission.
What’s the big deal?
The BBL is a product of the decades-long peace process between the Philippines’ central government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a group which has terrorized the southern Philippines since 1960.
A draft of the BBL was submitted to Congress last fall by President Aquino.
It seeks to replace the current autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao (ARMM) with Bangsamoro: a larger, autonomous Muslim territory carrying more powers and freedoms. Five of Mindanao’s 25 provinces would automatically become part of Bangsamoro.
According to Christian Aid Mission, Filipino Christians in Mindanao are apprehensive because the proposed Islamic state would be ruled by sharia law.
“Sharia law is basically what you see in ISIS-controlled areas and Saudi Arabia,” explains Van Valkenburg.
“The Christian ministries are very concerned about what will happen if they’re subjugated to [it].”
The Islamic State (ISIS) already has supporters on Mindanao, and the BBL could secure their foothold in Southeast Asia. Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, recently warned of such an occurrence.
“Part of the objective is to have a caliphate there that would include part of Mindanao and then part of Indonesia, but [it] would probably be a lot broader than that,” Van Valkenburg says.
What can you do about it?
Prayer is desperately needed for this situation.
“The area of the desired caliphate has many Christians,” the director of a ministry in Mindanao tells Christian Aid Mission. “It will be a problem to be under sharia law…. If we do not convert, we may have to leave.”
In 2013, Muslim extremists killed a Christian pastor trained by one of this director’s Bible schools. Two of the pastor’s daughters, ages 6 and 8, were also murdered.
“They are persecuted if they continue to practice the Christian faith they have,” said the director. “So many of them transfer to another area to avoid ‘honor killings’: members of their own family will kill their wife and their children.”
National missionaries supported by Christian Aid Mission are trying to tell their neighbors about Jesus while they still have time, Van Valkenburg shares.
“They still have a lot of wide-open doors, and they’re not sure how long that’s going to last. But they see this as really important: that they can urgently get the Gospel out there where they can,” he says.
While their greatest need is prayer, indigenous missionaries also need funds for Bibles, generators, motorcycles, and bicycles to reach remote regions, and vocational training so pastors can support their families.