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By Noel Tarrazona
Philippine Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ZAMBOANGA CITY, PHILIPPINES - The once calm, peaceful and loving people of the City of Zamboanga will never be the same again after 200 heavily armed Muslim rebels held 81 Christian hostages last week and exchanged gunfire with the military forces that left two soldiers, four Muslim rebels and four civilians dead.
With this situation, a number of Christian families in the village of Cabatangan have started to arm themselves with firearms to defend themselves from another rebel attack.
"We never wanted to arm ourselves but we could no longer depend on the military to protect us, we have no choice but to arm ourselves," the village chieftain said in the local dialect.
However, Dr. Ben de Jesus, former President of the Alliance World Fellowship (AWF) and now President of Ebenezer Bible College and Seminary who is based in this City told ASSIST News Service (ANS) that he is not for Christians arming themselves.
De Jesus told ANS that if firearms respond to firearms and war responds to war there will be no ending to the violence and this would be no solution to this problem in the Southern Philippines.
Earlier, De Jesus made an appeal to all Christians worldwide to pray for the Southern Philippines, which is being threatened by a new war between military and Muslim rebel forces.
Thousands of evacuees on Tuesday fled their homes in Cabatangan when high powered firefighting between the military and rebel forces ensued. Though all hostages were freed unharmed after a long negotiation, the military gave in to the demands of these renegades -- that is to leave the City proper carrying their firearms.
PHILIPPINES FACES WORST PROBLEM EVER
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now facing a serious problem in the Southern Philippines and this has has escalated as Southern Command sources havereported that the three Muslim rebel forces including the Abu Sayyaf have forged unity to fight the government. The three rebel groups are Muslim National Liberation Front, Muslim Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf who is still holding captive American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham.
The unity among the three Muslim rebel forces with a combined strength of 25,000 armed fighters have now the confidence to fight the Armed Forces of the Philippines that would result to a bloody war that seems to be endless.
Worse, these rebel forces refused to fight the conventional warfare but they resort to hostage taking of innocent civilians to paralyze military efforts as what had happen in last week's Tuesday crisis.
A veteran journalist told ASSIST News Service that last week's hostage crisis was just a start. There will be more hostage taking, more kidnapping and more bomb explosions, as these seem to be more effective strategy in fighting the Philippine government.
The Philippine government has earlier received military hardware from the United States that include C-130 aircrafts and ammunitions to fight Muslim rebel forces.
Assist News Service. Used with Permission.