Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Brutalities of the ISIS

Waging jihad to establish Islamic caliphate, the ISIS emerges as the most fearsome and well funded terrorist organization in the world. Its ferocity and determination have made it conquer large swath of lands in Syria and Iraq. During a battle Iraqi security forces fled from engagement leaving behind large quantity of weapons given to them by the Americans. The bonanza of American weapons and their initial military victories were a big boost to the morale of the ISIS fighters.

The advance of the ISIS has displaced thousands of indigenous population. Its onslaught created a flow of refugees in Northern Iraq and the Turkish borders. The ISIS which is mostly composed of Sunnis is at odds with the local Shiites, and armed confrontations are common occurrence between them. Conquering an area, the ISIS militants give the minorities such as the Christians and the Yazidis to convert to Islam or be killed. In areas that fell under their control after a military operation, the militants imposed harsh actions to the local populace. Women and children are separated from the men. The men including older male children are then killed execution style. The method of execution includes shooting, beheading and crucifying. Captured or kidnapped women are then raped or made as sex slaves. Selected young women are gifted to ISIS commanders as “wives”. Captured children are trained to become “holy warriors” or suicide bombers.

The US and western nations airstrikes have given the Kurds, the Iraqi security forces and other local militias a breathing space to deal with the ISIS. The Peshmerga the Kurdish armed forces which took the brunt of the fighting were able to recapture lost grounds. With US air support and weapons supplied by France and other European nations' the Kurds stalled or halted the ISIS advance into their territory.

Getting back at the Americans, the ISIS beheaded two American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in an effort to intimidate them and their allies. France which is active in the campaign against the terror group was also given a warning that its citizens will be targeted.

Despite the US air strikes, the ISIS militants have shown their superiority over local adversaries especially the Iraqi security forces. In the middle of September 2014, ISIS militants besieged an Iraqi army unit guarding a strategic supply route in Western Anbar. Suicide bombers dressed as Iraqi soldiers on bomb-laden Humvee vehicles drove through an army camp and detonated the bombs into the Iraqi soldiers’ positions. The explosions inflicted heavy casualties to the surprised Iraqi army. Amid the chaos and confusion that ensued, the militants then assaulted and overran the camp and killed as many as 250 Iraqi soldiers. Those who were not killed were captured or were able to escape. It is estimated that the Iraqi security forces lost about 500 of its troops that are listed as either killed or missing in that battle.

The brutalities of the ISIS have made some leaders and clerics of Muslim world such as Saudi Arabia to denounce the group. They stated that the group’s actions are disgrace to the Islamic faith and are not compatible with the principles of Islam. And that the ISIS does not represent the Muslims. Putting their money where their mouths are, Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain with Qatar in supporting role have joined the coalition of countries that conducted airstrikes against the ISIS in Syria.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental

The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Philippines. Pilgrims come to the shrine to pray, attend masses, make confession, make spiritual retreat or healing petition, and attend important religious occasions such as the Holy Week, the Feast of the Divine Mercy and the birthday of Mama Mary or the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.                                                                                                             
The shrine is situated on a 9-hectare Divine Mercy Hill in Barangay Ulaliman, El Salvador City. The main feature of the shrine is the statue of Jesus Christ. The statue was made in accordance with Mother Faustina  Kowalska’s  description of the Divine Mercy who is Jesus Christ who appeared to her in dreams. The 50-foot tall statue overlooks Macajalar Bay and awes visitors and pilgrims with its imposing size. Over the head of the statue is a halo. The right hand is raised in blessing while the left is placed on the breast which flows forth two rays. In the “rays” are stairs leading to the chamber of the Sacred Heart where devotees can make their petition to God. The ones in the right go up into the chamber while the others in the left descend into the ground. A well manicured garden adorns the sloping ground in front of the statue. And right below it is a huge lawn where devotees can gather to attend mass that is held in the open during special religious occasions. Devotees are required to dress modestly while inside the shrine premises. Female devotees are required to wear long skirt. Those without it are given one upon their entry into the shrine. Another important feature of the shrine is the almost completed church that is oval in shape and is spacious. On the outside at the edge of the roof is crown of thorns adornment that encircles the church.

Following pictures were taken during the birthday of Mama Mary on September 8, 2014 at Divine Mercy Shrine, El Salvador Misamis Oriental.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kurdish Female Warriors Take on the ISIS

Flag of Peshmerga
With its military victories in some parts of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State or ISIS is able to control large swath of land on said countries. Members of the militant group are known for their ruthlessness wherever they are. They forced minorities such as Christians and Yazidis to convert to Islam or be killed. There are reports of mass rape of women and of abduction and of making them sex slaves to the militants.  Captured women are married off to the militants or are sold as bride for as low as $100. Caught enemy combatants are beheaded, crucified or tortured. Even the Al Qaeda is appalled with the extreme brutalities of the ISIS. The king of Saudi Arabia and some Muslim clerics have denounced the atrocities of the ISIS and call their actions as not compatible with Islam.
Lately, the Iraqi security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters with US air strike support are able to slow down ISIS advance and are able to retake strategic areas that were captured by the ISIS. The Peshmerga or “those who confront death” is the security force of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. In the recent conflict it is in the forefront of battling the well armed, well funded and highly motivated ISIS militants. It also take up the cudgel for their fellow Kurds including the Yazidis to protect them from the militants who consider them as “devil worshippers”, and are therefore a fair game for persecution.

Members of Peshmerga forces include women, and an all –women Peshmerga Battalion is in the frontline against the ISIS militants. The reported violations of some Kurdish women by the ISIS militants made many women that include the youth and housewives to volunteer for military service. As combatants the women can help protect their homeland and stop the ISIS militants from making them booties of war if their village is overrun. 

For the terrorists it is ironic that women who they think are inferior to men are challenging them in the battlefield.  It is believed that this ruthless group considers it to be a worse nightmare for a jihadist to fight female enemy warrior. They believe that they would be denied entry into paradise if women killed them. Indeed the Kurds know the mindset of the terrorists and turn their absurd beliefs against them.