Told in their own words, the story of true Muslim heroes who put haters to shame for their selfless act of love to Christians, saving them from sure death.
It was the early days of the rebellion in Marawi launched by extremists under the black flag of ISIS, and the rebels were executing Christians they came across.
In the midst of the bloodshed, stories emerged of Muslims – who form the majority in the southern Philippine city – risking their lives to protect Christians and help them escape from the war zone.
Muslim clan leader Norodin Lucman saved 64 Christians
When the extremist militants first stormed into Marawi in late May, days before Ramadan, Marawi Muslim leader Norodin Lucman thought the fighting would be over in just a couple of days.
But the fighting dragged on.
His friends and relatives begged him to vacate his house and the city under siege.
He refused, and he could not tell them the reason – that he was giving refuge to a group of Christians who would surely be killed if they were found by the extremist rebels.
“I cannot tell them that I have Christians in my house for fear that somebody might get wind of the information and tell the ISIS (group),” said Norodin, who refused to abandon them.
So he told the group hiding in his house to “stay put, relax”.
“Nothing will happen to you while I’m here,” he assured them.
As the days went by, there were several close calls – like the time the rebels came knocking on his door. Fortunately, their leader knew Norodin as a respected community leader.
On the 12th day, the group in hiding ran out of food and water. Staying put was no longer an option.
“Come what may, because these people were going to die of hunger – rather than ISIS bullets or military bombs – I had to make a decision,” said Norodin.
“After dawn prayers, I woke them up and said, ‘Let’s get ready, we are going to break out’.”
He instructed the men to carry the children and the women to dress like Muslims with their heads covered so that they would look like families. And he told them to keep shouting “Allahuakbar”.
It was a long and terrifying walk to get to the other side of town across a bridge, with snipers on the rooftops watching them closely.
As they reached the mouth of the bridge, a militant blocked his path. It turned out to be a young man he knew.
“He motioned to his partners, on the other side of the bridge, to let us pass.
“And I was so glad that he recognised me. Because if not, then I don’t know what would happen,” Norodin said.
Three months on, the conflict continues to rage in Marawi. More than 200,000 people have fled their homes in the city of more than a quarter of a million people.
The bridge has become their main escape route and a group of volunteers have been trying to help those who survived the perilous walk to make their way across, to the relative safety of temporary evacuation centres.
Five Muslim police officers saved five Christian workers
In the centre of the city, five Muslim police officers found themselves protecting five Christian construction workers who got caught in the crossfire with the rebels.
Their situation was getting desperate – under threat from the extremists and from their own military, who warned them that they were going to bomb the place.
Police officer Lumla Lidasan said: “We were surrounded. We didn’t know there were so many ISIS (members) around here. We needed to get out.”
And so the entire group made a run for it – but they were halted by an ISIS militant.
Police officer Ricky Alwi recalled: “He was asking, ‘Are you Christian?’ We said ‘There aren’t any, everyone’s Muslim’.”
Then the man asked one of the construction workers if he was Muslim. The extremists had taken to ordering people to recite the Koran, and killing those who couldn’t, so the worker didn’t dare to answer.
He said, “I told him he can’t answer because he’s in shock.
“(The militant) asked us to follow him but once he went one way, we ran in the other direction.”
Expressing his gratitude, one of the workers who was saved by the police officers said, “We’re really thankful. Had they left us there, we would be dead by now.”
The world needs more good men like these Marawi Muslims.
Earlier report: Jun 4, Residents Hide Christians’ Identity in Walk to Freedom