LIGHT AMIDST THE DARKNESS
Morita Onofre Dialing
Darkness has veiled over Marawi. A city once known to be a peaceful ground where Muslim and Christian Filipinos co- exist has now become a city made desolate by war and death.
The armed conflict between the Philippine government and affiliated militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), began in May 23, 2017, and is still on going up to this day. The militant fighters have burned down churches, schools, and hospitals, and killed people whom they consider as infidels. As of today, the total death toll has breached the 600 mark and over 140,000 evacuees otherwise known as bakwits from Marawi have been pouring to neighboring cities, especially to Iligan, Lanao Del Norte. Amidst the bakwits are at least 50,000 children who have suffered the loss of their friends, loved ones, and homes. It is among these bakwit children in Iligan City that APNTS alumna, Morita Onofre Dialing, has been pouring her heart and life to for the past five months.
Before going to Iligan, Morita served for five years as a Grade 1 teacher at CDC Nazarene Christian School in Culasi, Iloilo, Philippines. While she found the ministry to be personally fulfilling and spiritually uplifting, Morita felt in her heart that God desires to bring her elsewhere. After many prayers, the answer came to her through a phone call from her brother who pastors the Iligan Church of the Nazarene. She has been asked to work as the school administrator of the Nazarios Child Development Foundation—an arm of the church working with children. In May 2017, Morita responded to the challenge. Just few days after, the unthinkable happened. Marawi city which is just next to Iligan, has been seized by militant fighters. Little did she know that the task God has prepared for her will take her far beyond the desk of a school administrator. Morita shares, “I volunteered for Nazarene Disaster Response, Marawi Team. Your heart will surely bleed seeing the traumatic effects of war in the lives of the children. We went to evacuation centers and offer psycho-social help for children using the materials authored by Dr. Phyliss Kilbourn.” Morita, along with her team, has conducted medical-dental services and distributed Crisis Care Kits to the bakwit children and their families. Furthermore, the Lord has opened an opportunity for Morita and the Nazarene Disaster Response, Marawi Team to visit and minister to the wounded soldiers recovering at Camp Evangelista. Morita reflects on the vistas of war which she has seen with her own eyes, “This experience reminds me that life is fleeting. We cannot guarantee that we will live long, or where we will be after tomorrow. So what matters most is we have to live each day as if it is our last.”
There is indeed a greater war happening in Marawi—far beyond the war of religious and political ideologies is the war to reclaim our humanity. Whenever men and women like Morita Onofre Dialing take a stand, put themselves in harm’s way, and push back against the moral and spiritual darkness which looms over the innocent, the war is slowly undone with their sheer faith and selfless acts of love. Let us pray for her as she ministers to the bakwits.