By Weng Tarrazona, Special to ASSIST News Service
At the height of military offensives against the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in nearby Basilan and Sulu provinces, here in the Philippines, more than 10,000 Evangelical Christians representing different churches marched around Zamboanga City chanting “Jesus Reigns, Jesus Reigns.”
Zamboanga used to be the seat of US government in the Southern Philippines in the 1900s, but has become a subject of militant terror attacks since 1970s.
A day before this celebration, two suspected members of ASG were killed in in the city, when combined forces of the military and police were patrolling a seashore in the village of Sangali. Police authorities reported that, while they were patrolling the seashore to secure the city from fresh terror threats, the two ASG suspects rained the authorities with bullets that led Philippine soldiers to return fire killing the two ASG members on the spot.
Police later recognized the ASG members as often involved in extortion and kidnapping activities in this city’s east coast. Recovered from the suspects were .45 caliber pistols and hand grenades.
Police authorities have raised the security level in the City as red alert status because of the reported of ASG presence in the city as result of the military offensives in nearby provinces.
But despite this security challenge, evangelical Christians, both young and old, braved any security threats and continued with their praise and worship songs, prayer for the city Mayor and other government officials.
City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco, Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde and Congressman Mannix Dalipe, also participated in the “Jesus Reigns” celebration.
The program opened with the blowing of the ram’s horn, also known as the shofar, and a musical worship songs from Don Moen tracks. The program also featured a musical skit and a hip hop Christian dance from university students.
In the later part of the program, the three city government officials were asked to go up the stage and the 10,000 Christian audience prayed for the city’s officials.
While on stage, Mayor Climaco declared in prayer that peace, and public safety would Reigns in Zamboanga City for God’s glory and it would be free from terror attacks.
Defying security threats, parents also brought their school-aged and pre-school children to witness once a year event in the city.
In 2013, around 400 Islamic separatists stormed this peaceful city and engaged a three-week firefight with 4,000 Philippine soldiers where a humanitarian crisis was declared in the city. The war has displaced more than 100,000 residents when 10,000 houses got burned by the war. Three years later, the city is still recovering from that fateful war. After the 2013 war, more bomb attacks were launched by suspected ASG terrorist group. But dozens of them have also been arrested in the city.
Source: Assist News Service