Muslim refugees from a battle-torn city in the Philippines have found a new home in the arms of Christians.
The Philippine city of Marawi is left scarred and broken after government troops battled radical Muslim terrorists for the last two months. The fighting destroyed half of the homes and killed more than 1,000 people, including civilians. As a result, countless Muslims like Alayssa Macabaya were forced to flee their hometown after the terrorists destroyed their home.
Now, Macabaya lives 2 hours away in the predominantly Christian city of Cagayan de Oro. He and other Muslim refugees receive food, shelter, and basic necessities from the Christians who live there.
"We are not driving them from the city. They can stay as long as they want," Mayor Oscar Moreno told the Los Angeles Times. "Who knows, maybe some will settle down here."
"We are in the same boat together," Moreno continued. "Our strategy was, given of course that many of our brothers in Marawi would be displaced, we visibly offered to accept them in Cagayan de Oro."
However, not everyone is happy about mayor Moreno's decision. The city's social welfare officer Teodoro Sabuga-a said he's received numerous security concerns from residents.
"There are some Cayaganos who called my attention, 'What are you doing?' — as if there might be something that will happen," he said. "But I said it's already an instruction of the mayor that we have to accommodate them."
The city currently provides it's Muslim refugees three halal meals a day, $4 in daily spending money, prayer rooms, public schools, and access to sports facilities. Meanwhile, a local Catholic diocese, the central government, and a number of charities continue to flood the city with aid to accommodate the refugees.
Despite the aid, life for refugees in Cagayan is no vacation.
At least two families live in each room, separated by laundry lines. Meanwhile, the refugees patiently wait for the government rebuild their destroyed city.
While the situation is difficult, it is worth it.
"We are some sort of a clearinghouse," he said. But, he added, "It’s the desire, the concern, the compassion that counts."