Love Wins in Wake of Zamboanga War Aftermath

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After three weeks of fighting between Philippine troops and Muslim rebels, the fighting in the southern city of Zamboanga is over.

Now, leaders face the difficult tasks of rebuilding their community and helping traumatized residents move forward.

Surprisingly, it's area churches that are reaching out to the mostly Muslim victims.

Zamboanga resident, Cristina, is still shaken. She recounted how God miraculously saved her from being taken hostage at the height of the fighting.

She went up to her room to rest when the MNLF Muslim rebels barged into their boarding house and took with them her three female housemates.

"I cried out to God to help me and surrendered everything to Him. A mortar exploded near our house and I could hear empty shells fall on the roof like rain," she recalled.

"After two days, I managed to get out of the house and leave the place by pretending to be Muslim," she continued.

The conflict in Zamboanga is not about religion, but that didn't stop the Muslim rebels from detaining Christians to act as human shields.

Cristina now stays at her church. Her pastor, Yolly Trinidad, also shared the horrifying accounts of her relatives who were held hostage for more than a week.

"Eight of my relatives were detained by the MNLF. They said they were ordered to walk under the heat of the sun. And they beheaded with their machetes those who became weak and threw the dead bodies in the houses that they burned," Pastor Yolly said.

In the midst of the crisis in their city, Pastor Yolly and her husband shouldered the burden of caring for the suffering refugees, especially the infants.

"When I prayed to God, He told me this is the time for the churches to go out and fulfill Matthew 25 that says, to feed the hungry, to clothe them and to help those in need," Pastor Yolly said.

"My husband and I went to the stadium and we brought with us Muslim mothers with children and little babies who were just 2 weeks old," she recalled.

And since her work has expanded beyond their resources, she said she is grateful to partner with CBN News.

"We now have 130 evacuees, but we don't have the capability to supply all their needs. And that is why we are very happy when CBN came to Zamboanga. They united our churches and empowered us to help our communities. We are able to give food not only to the evacuees but to the military as well," she said.

Much blood was shed and many tears sown, yet Yolly proclaims the end result has been an answer to prayer.

"All these years we are praying for the unreached people groups, and now they have come out. And we can easily reach out to them," she said.

Most of the evacuees in this school come from the Muslim dominated areas that are indifferent towards the Christians.

That is why the church volunteers are happy to have been given the opportunity to serve them and to share with them the love of Christ.

"One Muslim evacuee told me, 'You are different. The Muslims hostaged the Christians and yet in return, you care for us,'" Pastor Yolly said.

"I am a Muslim and I have never entered a church before," Natifa, a Zamboanga Muslim, said. "This is the first time. But here I am happy because we are safe and comfortable. And the Christians give us everything that we need, especially for my grandchildren. I can feel God's love in this place. I feel that God is real."

"Our city is facing a difficult crisis but God's purpose still prevails," Yolly said. "What the enemy meant for evil, God turns into good. It's a time for God's love to shine."

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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