ILIGAN CITY -- Muslim leaders and peace advocates have expressed their concern over reports that Bibles translated into the Maranao language are being distributed as part of relief goods being handed to Marawi City refugees.
While they said they appreciate the help, the Muslim leaders said a dialogue needs to take place between concerned groups and themselves to arrest any complication that may arise.
The Bibles came with hygiene packs distributed to home-based evacuees in Ceanuri Subdivision in Tubod village here. Each pack contains a bath soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrush, making the Holy Book the most prominent stuff.
Ustadz Abdul Karim Ambor, former president of the Iligan League of Imams, said the evacuees did not immediately discover the Bibles as these were part of the goods contained in plastic bags. It was only when they opened the relief packs that the Bibles were found.
In lieu of Bibles, some packs contained magazines on the Bible story of the fisherman, also in Maranao language.
Ambor, who lives and runs a madrasah in Ceanuri Subdivision, said when told about the Bibles, he asked that these be given to him for safekeeping.
The Maranao translated Bible had the phrase “So Sindaw” in its cover. This translates to “The Light.”
No group has come forward to admit they were responsible for the snafu but some evacuees remember the donors as a group led by a certain Pastor Solaiman.
Abelardo Moya of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) said the act “transgresses some cultural and religious sensibilities.”
He noted that various Christian denominations have been doing humanitarian relief work in the same area, “even earning the trust of Maranaos to prepare food for them.
“This must be dealt with soonest. Now that this has happened, it is best seen as an opportunity to dialogue,” Moya added.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has similarly expressed their concern.
“This is simply exploiting people in times of crisis,” the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said in a statement, noting that a similar act happened in the aftermath of the Zamboanga siege in 2013.
“What makes the reports this time very sensational and particular was that the Bible was not an ordinary one written in standard English; it is a translation of it in Maranao language, which means that there is a deliberate plan to convert non-Christians to Christianity,” the MILF said.
“It also means that it is a long-term missionary program. Thus, we expect more and more of this problem in the future,” the group added.
But the MILF said the incident is “an opportunity not to sour Muslim-Christian relations” and “a great opportunity to better the same.”
“We are sure that legitimate or mainstream religious groups both on the Christian and Muslim sides would ever agree to such a cheap way to spread the messages of religion,” the MILF added.