By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BosNewsLife)-- Christian missionaries in the Philippines say "trigger-happy" President Rodrigo Duterte is enabling them to "spread the Gospel" and help drugs addicts and victims of Islamic terrorism. "Hundreds of thousands of users and sellers of illicit drugs have surrendered to avoid being gunned down by police under President Duterte's lethal crack-down," noted the Christian Aid Mission (CAM) group.
As they are "flooding the country's few, and already crowded, rehabilitation centers" the Duterte administration "has given indigenous Christian ministries' rehab programs free rein to help fill the void," CAM explained.
In comments monitored by BosNewsLife, the director of an indigenous ministry said that he and colleagues even had "the opportunity to preach the Gospel in a drug rehab program to drug users and drug pushers" who had surrendered to local police. "We shared about God's plan of salvation as the basis for change. We praise God for those who accepted Christ. The Duterte administration has opened ministry opportunities for us in reaching out to drug returnees in rehabilitation centers. God has given us a field ripe for harvest," she added.
Many reportedly "accepted Christ" as their Lord and Savior. "From darkness to light, from enslavement to freedom, from death to life – truly, Christ alone can deliver them," the director said.
"A group of pastors has been using books to help them evangelize and counsel drug addicts in their local communities, and now 75 addicts are faithfully attending church," explained the official, whose name was not revealed amid apparent security concerns.
Despite these efforts, many died in what has become a brutal drugs war. Since 2016, security forces executed thousands of
suspects under what is effectively a government policy, critics say. President Duterte has denied that claim while police argue that they only kill in self-defense.
Christian missionaries said they were also able to support victims of the five-month siege of Marawi city, on the island of Mindanao, by an Islamic extremist group linked to the Islamic State (IS) organization and other terror networks.
More than three months after government forces claimed victory over militants tried to turn the city into territory for an IS caliphate, many people are still displaced, Christians said.
"During the siege, Christians were targeted, tortured and killed if they didn't convert to radical Islam," the director of another ministry based in the Philippines said in comments distributed by CAM. "The siege left many displaced and unable to return to the area for fear of their lives. Even Muslim people who are not part of the extreme sects in the area had to flee and remain displaced," the official explained.
However, "Native ministries in surrounding areas have reached out with compassionate aid to the displaced people in the name of the Lord Jesus. This has built relational bridges to share the Gospel with those who have not heard," said the mission leader who wasn't named.
The official said that he and colleague also able to extend their "longstanding outreach to children which combines meeting a physical need with Gospel proclamation", to displaced youngsters. "One example of a typical child outreach is a three-day Bible and feeding program where children in poverty, including those displaced from Marawi, receive a nutritious meal, and they hear the Gospel message and have Bible study. Hundreds of children hear the Gospel through these outreaches."
CAM confirmed that "native missionaries never expected to be able to access children and their parents who are regularly putting their faith in Christ thanks to these outreaches."
Another place native missionaries could reportedly access was a local city hall in Banaue, on Luzon Island.
"The unexpected opportunity arose after officials saw how Christianity improved attitudes toward work, fellow employees, and morale. The director of the same ministry has long preached in a setting where gospel proclamation would be normal for some pastors – funerals – but with a peculiar rural, native twist: the services can go on for hours and include a Gospel film," CAM explained.
"Recently we were able to preach and show a gospel film at several funerals that lasted until 2 and 3 a.m.," a local mission director added. "I thank the Lord for this passion for lost souls and the prayers of partners that keep me going. Even those who had too much alcohol paused to watch these films. I praise God for those who accepted Christ at these funerals – from a time of death came life."
(BosNewsLife's MISSION WATCH is a regular look at missionaries working in the two-thirds world and other difficult areas and related news developments).