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ICC Note: While the world’s attention has been following developments in Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan, another human rights crisis has developed in the pre-dominantly Christian Philippines. On September 9th around 200 armed militants attacked the city of Zamboanga in the Southern Philippines. They burned thousands of homes and took approximately 200 hostages. As of today the Philippine military has killed or driven most of the militants from the city and the majority of the hostages have been freed or escaped. The violence has however left more than 100,000 displaced from the city and Christian ministries are finding it very difficult to continue operations.  
9/23/2013 The Philippines (MNN) – There’s a crisis in the region of the Philippines known to host training camps for militant Islamists.
Did you hear about it? No? You’re probably not alone, says Steve VanValkenberg, the Southeast Asian Director at Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. “The focus is on Syria, the Middle East, and Iran. People just don’t think about what’s happening in the Philippines, so it has not gotten attention. But, it is a major situation for the Christians, what’s happening with the radical Muslims.”
Clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga have displaced at least 80,000 people, according to government statistics.
About half of those who fled sought temporary shelter in the city’s open-air sports stadium, having left their belongings behind them when they fled. The area is under a dusk to dawn curfew (8 pm to 5 am) in order to try to quell the violence.
Regardless of what is going on with the ‘official’ numbers, the reality is that there is no respite for the refugees.
Several Christian Aid-assisted ministries in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao are feeling the effects of 11 days of clashes between government troops and the Muslim-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). VanValkenberg explains, “It paralyzed everything in the area because everybody’s intimidated and afraid of what’s going to happen. They may get in trouble, so everybody’s trying to lay low, so it’s closed down a large area of the city.”
Fighting is centered in Zamboanga City, where the rebel group stormed five coastal communities September 9 and took about 200 people hostage. Those seized by the guerrillas were both Muslims and Christians. Thus far, all but 20 of the hostages have been released or escaped, including a pastor.
According to the government of the Philippines, as many as 112,000 people have been displaced in the conflict, and more than 10,000 homes and a hospital have been destroyed. Many who fled the siege are staying in the city’s sports stadium or other emergency shelters.
Filipino authorities reported more than 100 casualties, most of whom were rebel fighters. Seven civilians also lost their lives. All schools and the majority of businesses remained closed through most of the week as a precaution to prevent further hostage situations and injuries to residents caught in the crossfire. “The curfew has affected things, but I think more people are just afraid of doing things. A lot of ministry activity has been stopped. Also, it’s hard for people to travel, so a lot of ministries just have to stay home and not venture out very far because they don’t want to get involved in any kind of potential problems.”
Christian Aid ministry contacts in Mindanao report no incidents directly involving their workers, although travel into and within Zamboanga City has been seriously hampered. VanValkenberg notes that, “Stores are closed for the most part. They can’t get food in any way. It’s not a good situation for people in that whole area.” The situation is worsening as farmers cannot get their produce into the city to sell.
“They [farmers] are not safe going into the city because they will pass places where the majority of the people are Muslims. We are contacting them and telling them that as of now, it is not safe for them to go to the city while the trouble is going on. The pastors are visiting them and having prayers with each family,” said one ministry leader.

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