ISIS has made it customary to desecrate the churches and synagogues within the territory it conquers. The practice is despicable and has led to the destruction of historic churches and artifacts throughout Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic terror group thrived for the better part of five years.
Now, the terror group has started a war in the Philippines. According to IJR's Justen Charters:
...the militants are part of the Maute Group, who pledged their allegiance to ISIS. On Tuesday, the terror group stormed Marawi, a city of a little over 200,000. Marawi is just one city on the island of Mindanao, home to 21 million people in the Philippines.
In 2015, the Maute Group pledged their allegiance to ISIS. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said of the Maute Group's recent victory, “If I think that you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”
While ISIS's influence is being squeezed by military forces in Syria in Iraq, the group as a whole is still growing in power outside of its self-declared borders.
Now, some disturbing footage has been released from Marawi, where ISIS thugs have ravaged the city and desecrated yet another holy place. The footage shows members of the terror group entering a Catholic Church and committing a sacrilegious rampage.
The footage begins with the terror group entering the sanctuary.
Smashing statues of Joseph and The Virgin Mary.
Tearing down photos of Pope Francis.
Smashing what seems to be a statue of the Christ Child with a hammer.
Throwing the Holy Eucharist on the floor.
Toppling a Crucifix.
Ultimately, setting the church ablaze.
Those who have seen the footage online were rightly disgusted.
While men can be cruel, brutish, and dark, there is a silver lining of sorts in this saga. As ISIS retreats and becomes surrounded in its shrinking territories, the heartwarming stories of religious vigilance and perseverance have emerged. In the face of barbaric terror, Christians have returned to worship in the places desecrated by the terror group in an act of defiance. According to a CNN report from a Christian church outside of Mosul on Christmas:
Even though volunteers have worked on the church for several days, evidence of the terror group's brutal regime is everywhere. ISIS' signature is written large — in scorched walls, charred books and broken glass. Bullet holes scar the church. The head of a statue and its hands have been smashed.
Hania Noah, an Iraqi Christian who traveled back to her home town with the group from Irbil could not hold back the tears as she stepped inside the church.
“I felt like I lost a family member when I saw the church this way. This is the church that I have been praying in for my entire life” said Noah. “But I am happy to be back. I am glad I am here to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's like I'm reborn again.”
The priests who spoke at that Christmas service had beautiful messages for their flock:
We are here to challenge the sons of darkness and this is why we held this mass here. ISIS are sons of darkness. This is a message to the entire world that we Christians ... are the inherent component of this country and we are staying.
—Father Yaqub Saadi.
Even if it's ISIS, the lord taught us to love and forgive our enemies and to pray for them. The most important thing is for us to live in harmony and peace.
— Archbishop Timthawes al-Shamani
Hopefully, we can write this story about the Philippine Catholic Church in the near future. Until then, prayers.