TODAY’S HOTSPOT – Philippines Terror attack in Marawi City
Todays Hotspot May 25th, 2017, is Marawi City, capital city of the province of Lanao del Sur on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.
The Philippines was originally colonized by the Spanish in 1571, up until 1898 when a conflict over Cuba and the destruction of the USS Maine precipitated the Spanish-American war. At the end of the Spanish American War, the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain for $20 million dollars.
In 1946, even though the Philippines was now beset with a crushed Japanese occupation, America ceded independence to the Philippines.
Today, the Philippines is the largest Christian nation in the South-East Asia area. With a population of a little over 100 million people, the Philippines are home to over 95 million Christians, predominantly Catholic.
However, on it’s South-Western shores, on the Island of Mindanao, a group of people called the “Moro” have made this their home since sometime during the 13th Century. Unlike the rest of the Philippine’s, the population of the people around Marawi City are not Christian. They are Muslim. The Moros, while originally their own ethnic sect, became known as the “Moors” to the early colonial Spaniards that colonized the area. Later on, the Spanish would call all Arabic Muslims, “Moors”.
So this HotSpot dates back to the 15th century when the Spanish colonized the Philippines, and changed hands several times prior to that as well.
After the United States recognized the independence of the Philippines, the face of conflict in the area changed, but at it’s heart was the same core issue. In the 1960’s the Moro population formed a rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), that used terrorist attacks and assassinations to achieve their goals.
Finally after years of conflict, in the 2014 a series of agreements led to the formation of the ARMM Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindinau. In 2016 the area was turned over to primarily Islamic control, and it is in this setting that this latest Massacre occurs.
In Marawi City, Capital of the newly Autonomous Muslim Region, militants claiming ties to The Islamic State seized the city while waving ISIS flags. The also attacked a Christian Church and beheaded the priest, and killed a congregation of 22.
This seems to continue a pattern of attack against churches and Christians, by ISIS, all across the region. In response to this attack of radical extremism, Philippine President Duterte has declared a state of Martial Law across the southern island of Mindinau. In a speech earlier today, the President said they had not determined whether or not to expand that state of Martial Law, to encompass the entire country.
The Philippines, however are also subject to the influences of their neighbors as well, and the Philippines sits but a short boat trip north of the Indonesian Islands. Indonesia is a nation that is predominantly Muslim, and under heavy control of the religious sect. The areas in and around Indonesia are known to be some of the most hostile in the world, and the area around Sumatra has been in the top one or two spot for piracy for the last two decades.
As the largest Christian country in South East Asia, the Philippines are quite literally and figuratively, an Island. The question is, with this continued beach head of potential extremism on his southern border, how will President Duterte react, and to what extent, if any, does the United States have an obligation to take position on the issue, in the wake of strong words on extremism.