This cyclone-prone nation of 7,250 islands is around 85% Christian, but Christians on the southern Muslim-dominated island. of Mindanao have endured a decades-long insurgency by the Moro (a local word for Muslim) Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militant group campaigning to separate from the Philippines.
In January 2014, President Benigno Aquino III agreed a peace deal and later proposed the creation of a semi-independent sub-state on part of the island called “Bangsamoro” (meaning Muslim people or Muslim nation) through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The government approved the BBL in May 2015.
In what could be a worrying precedent for Muslim minorities living in other Christian-majority countries, the BBLallows regional to set up sharia courts with sharia punishments for crimes that include apostasy. It also permits authorities to introduce Islamic banking systems, promote halal products and foster the Islamisation of the area Although lawmakers insist that the BBL will apply only to Muslims, Christians (who make up a sizeable proportion of the population in the region are concerned that they will be affected by the imposition of sharia. The bill insists that it will uphold international human rights law, but contradictions between recognised human rights and sharia make this a concerning move.
However, when Christians on Mindanao raised their concerns about such laws in the past, they have been violently targeted by the MILF. In 2008, when the Christian community objected to a similar agreement, the Supreme Court ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional. The MILF responded violently, killing around 400 believers and displacing 750, 000.
Pray for God’s protection and wisdom for Christians living in the Bangsamoro area of Mindanao island. Pray especially for Muslim converts to Christianity in this area, who could be tried for apostasy under sharia courts. Pray also for restraint on the part of authorities in Bangsamoro so that harsh sharia punishments will not be dealt out. Ask the Lord to meet the practical needs of all who have been affected by natural disasters. Praythat He will comfort those who have lost homes and loved ones.