Some of the children displaced by the fighting in Marawi see Islamic State (IS) group fighters as heroes, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) found after it recently hosted games for peace for them.
PSC Chair William Ramirez said the finding, while not scientific, was alarming so he informed the PSC psychologist and a Cabinet official about it so that other government agencies could do something to counter it.
The PSC last week held the games for peace in Iligan City, where many displaced Marawi residents fled after fighting between government forces and IS-inspired terrorists who seized the city broke out two months ago.
"Most … Filipino children consider other people heroes- sports heroes, military heroes. But here-we don't have research, this is not scientific but it was written by our coaches when we had our children's games for peace that some, if not many, of these [displaced] Marawi … children-they consider [IS-inspired fighters] their heroes. Wow!" Ramirez told reporters in Malacañang on Thursday.
They want to join IS
While playing, he said, the children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.
They answered that they wanted to be members of IS because the Middle East-based jihadist group provided them with food and paid their fathers, while they got nothing from the government, Ramirez said.
He said the children's attitude could be rooted in their people's centuries-old hatred for Spanish and American colonizers, as well as for the military and the government.
Cultural, religious diversity
The PSC, he said, plans to go back to the evacuation centres and focus especially on children's activities.
He said playing and games could allow children to appreciate their differences.
The PSC has come up with a resolution saying that the "early playing" and "early peacemaking" for children should be continued to allow them to appreciate the diversity of Philippine culture and religion, he said.
Ramirez recalled that during the Arroyo administration, the PSC hosted games for Christian children and children of Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas.
"There is a saying that when children play, humanity celebrates," he said.
It is easier to change the mindset of children sympathetic to the IS group than to change the mindset of adults, he said.
The money that the Philippines would save from letting go of the hosting responsibility for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games could also be used for sports programs for Mindanao and other marginalised people, he added.
"Who knows, you may inspire young Maranaos to, instead of loving the IS [group], study well and understand liberal arts, instead of going to extremism," he said.
He also called on Cabinet officials to help deal with the problem.
"Food isn't just the problem. The dogs and the birds survive, but this is different. Their anger, as I'm watching not in the realm of sports, it's not about food. It's about how they are treated," he said.
Inquirer calls for support for the victims in Marawi City
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