Marawi relief aid with Bibles draws flak from religious leaders

Religious leaders in the Philippines have criticized Christian groups' efforts to include Bibles in the relief packs being distributed to residents who have fled the clashes between the Maute terrorist group and the government troops in Marawi City.

(REUTERS / Jorge Silva)Evacuated residents rest at an evacuation center in Iligan. June 28, 2017.

Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton said Christians are helping the displaced people of Marawi by giving them soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, and other necessities. However, there were magazines in some of the relief packs that featured a Bible story which was translated to the local Maranao language, Mission Network News reported.

"This imam is saying, 'We don't want these Muslims to have Bibles. They shouldn't have them; they shouldn't read them. This is going to cause unrest; it's going to cause problems. You Christians should not mix Bibles in with aid material'" Nettleton said of Iligan League of Imams' former president.

According to the said imam, proselytizing to Marawi evacuees could do more harm than good. Nettleton mentioned the Islamic leader simply "doesn't want them to read the Quran and then the Bible and then decide which one is telling the truth."

Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao has also expressed concern over the inclusion of Bibles in the relief aid. He said such a move could trigger religious tension and could also be used by the extremists to convince people to side with them.

Nettleton, on the other hand, insisted that Christians should "be a light" and "offer help to those in need," no matter what their religion is. He acknowledged that Bible distribution should be done in an appropriate manner but also emphasized the need to let all the people know about God's Word.

Bai Norhata Alonto, the wife of Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, has shared her thoughts on the conflict in Marawi. She said the clashes are not all about religion, and that the Maute is just using it to create a rift between Muslims and Christians, SunStar Cebu reported.

Mrs. Alonto pointed out that Marawi is "almost 99.9 percent Muslim," so those who were fighting for jihad should have protected Muslims' property and homeland instead of traumatizing the Islamic community. She added that the government's airstrikes are necessary to defeat the terrorists or else many of the military troops will die.