By Jim McDonald
In June conflict arose between government troops and Muslim rebels in southern Mindanao resulted in many deaths to both combatants and created much suffering for the saints in the area. From Benjamin Libertino who lives in Midsayap, Cotabato comes the following report: “(June 27, 1997) I’m sorry to inform you that the Pikit and Kabacan congregations are greatly affected by the battle between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government troops that just happen last June 25-26 and I don’t exactly know if there was a ceasefire agreement, for there was an urgent meeting yesterday between the MILF and the government panel while the battle is going on. The rebel Muslims are responsible of kidnapping for ransom in Mindanao. There are still several kidnap victims that are in their hands .. . As of now there are about forty thousand evacuees in the municipalities of Kabacan, Pikit and Pagalungan. These three municipalities are being declared in the state of calamity. The members of the churches in that towns mentioned are in need of your helping hand. . . . (July 23) When I wrote my first letter to you, the battle between the Muslim rebels and the government troops was in its culminating point. However three days later it calms down not knowing that the rebels had another treacherous attacked in between the barrio of Nalapeoon and Takepan Pikit where the building of the church of Christ is located. The refugees has increased from 40,000 to 72,000. At present majority are still in the school buildings afraid to return to their respective homes for fear that they might experience worse evacuation than the former one …”
From Dominador Neniel, Digos, Davao Del Sur … “(July 5, 1997) . . . for two weeks now an encounter between government troops and the rebels a matter of fifteen (15) kilometers from Kidapawan to Kabacan. Some of our brethren were affected and evacuated from Kabacan to Magpet where I am residing …”
From Juanito Balbin, Davao City …”(July 3, 1997) I would like to pass on to you the plight of some of our brethren who are presently in trouble caused by the encounter of the Arm Forces of the Philippines against the Moro guerrilla rebels. The Military launched an all-out offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). So, 40,000 people fled their homes and are now in evacuation centers in central Mindanao. These places under attacked are Pilch, Maguindanao; Kabacan, Cotabato, and partially in Matalma, Cotabato. We have many brethren here, for there are existing faithful churches of the Lord here in these places …”
It is not known just exactly how many Christians are affected but portions of three congregations are specifically mentioned. Help is needed for (1) those who have fled and are in evacuation points, and for (2) those who have chosen to remain in the critical areas. If you can help, assistance for evacuees might be sent to Dominador Neniel, Roxas Extension Street, 8002 Digos, Davao Del Sur, Philippines and assistance for those who still are in the contested territory, send help to Ben Libertino, Poblacion 5, Midsayap, 9410 Cotabato, Philippines.
I would suggest that cashier checks be sent and please register your letters.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 19 p. 5
October 2, 1997