Mali & Philippines: Captives in Crisis


Date:  July 5, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal
MALI: On Sunday 2 July at a meeting in Malian capital, Bamako, French
President Emmanuel Macron promised strong support for a new multinational
military force to combat terrorism in West Africa. The 5,000-strong force,
comprised of troops from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, will
operate in the western Sahel region along with 12,000 United Nations
peacekeepers in Mali and an existing French force of 5,000. Along with
military support, France will supply 70 tactical vehicles, communications and
operational and protective equipment. The European Union has pledged about
EUR50 million ($57 million) in support of this force, which is expected to be
operational by September.  The day before the Bamako meeting, the Mali-based
al-Qaeda affiliate Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) released a disturbing
video. Entitled, 'The Correct Equation' (see blog for link) it opens with a
clip of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri explaining: 'Security is a shared
fate. If we are secured, then you may be secured. And if we are safe, then
you may gain safety. And if we are struck or killed then inevitably, by the
will of Allah, you will be struck or killed. This is the correct equation.'
Quoting the Qur'an [Sura 47:4 href="">] and Islamic
theologians, the English-speaking narrator explains that Islam not only
permits but mandates the taking of non-combatants as captives, 'until the war
lays down its burdens' (i.e. until war ends). Ultimately the video closes
with a clip of Osama bin Laden essentially reiterating the correct equation.
This is the context in which proof of life is provided of six Western
captives: three men, Stephen McGowan (South Africa), Dr Ken Elliot
(Australia) [RLPB 341 (27 Jan 2016)] and Mr Iulian Ghergut (Romania); and
three women, Beatrice Stockly (Switzerland) [RLPB 341 (27 Jan 2016)], Sophie
Petronin (France) and Gloria Cecilia Narvaez (Colombia). As if to justify its
harsh treatment of the women, JNIM specifically accuses them of being
'Christian preachers' and 'missionaries [trying to] convert Muslims to
Christianity'. No mention is made of captive Malian soldiers or of Jeffery
Woodke who was captured by jihadists in Niger in October last year [RLPB 396
(1 March 2017)]. The English-speaking narrator warns that, with negotiations
failing, the fate of each captive lies squarely with their families and
governments. Clearly these captives need to be rescued, delivered or redeemed
before the new multinational anti-terror force commences operations in
'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the
ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all
numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.'
(Matthew 10:29,30 ESV)
PHILIPPINES: On 23 May conflict erupted in Marawi, southern Philippines,
between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Islamic jihadists
belonging to the Abu Sayyaf  Group and the Maute Group, both of which have
pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). Catholic priest Father Chito
Suganob and some 15 Catholics who were meeting in the Cathedral (nuns and
lay-persons) were amongst the many hundreds of Marawi locals taken captive by
the jihadists who have been using them as human shields [RLPB 409 (31 May)].
Some 400,000 civilians have been displaced. Father Suganob was seen alive on
Sunday 25 June when militant leaders met with Muslim leaders in an effort to
broker a prisoner swap. Refusing to be swayed, the Philippine government
reiterated its policy of not negotiating with terrorists. [RLPB 412 (28
Whilst the Philippines is no stranger to Islamic jihad, this time it is
different. Far from being local Islamists fighting for autonomy or even
independence, these jihadists are mostly foreigners, eager to fight to the
death for an IS wilayet (province). More than 330 jihadists have been killed,
along with at least 39 civilians and 84 AFP soldiers; many believe the death
toll is much higher. Unable to be collected, the bodies that litter the
streets are being eaten by dogs, vermin and flies; many fear an outbreak of
disease is inevitable. Soldiers and escapees report that captives are being
used as porters and sex-slaves - with some forcibly 'married' to fighters -
and that Christians have been forcibly converted to Islam. The ring-leader,
Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, is believed to be hiding in a mosque
inside the jihadist's ever-shrinking territory. The situation for the
captives could not be more serious.
* that he may intervene in the hostage crises currently unfolding deep in the
Malian desert and in the city of Marawi, southern Philippines; may the Lord
Almighty both rescue and repay. (See Isaiah 59:14-19; also Isaiah 40:10)
'Some trust in chariots and some in horses [i.e. in military hardware], but
we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)
* that the Holy Spirit may flood and guard the hearts and minds of believing
captives with 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding'
(Philippians 4:7);  may each one be palpably aware of  Christ's eternal,
faithful and sustaining presence.
'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things
present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in
Christ Jesus our Lord.'  (From Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

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