Catholics in the battle-scarred southern Philippine city of Marawi have joined the predominantly Muslim community in welcoming the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan this week. A thousand Catholic and Muslim residents participated in the start of the "Duyog Ramadan" celebration spearheaded by the Catholic prelature in the city's Datu Saber district on May 13. The annual celebration, which started in 1979, aims to encourage Christian families to "accompany" their Muslim neighbors in fasting, prayer and service to the poor. "Fasting and prayer are major commonalities among Christians and Muslims," said Redemptorist priest Gary Alvarado, head of the group Duyog Marawi. The priest said it is not a new concept, "but it would strengthen bonds."
is a rehabilitation project of Marawi's Catholic prelature and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or Redemptorists in the war-torn city. "After the destruction of the city, Catholics need to show more solidarity
with our Muslim brothers and sisters," Father Alvarado said. Bishop Edwin dela Pena of Marawi said "Duyog Ramadan" or One with Ramadan, is "an appreciation of the early memories" of Muslim and Christian interaction in the city. The program encourages Christian families "to sacrifice one meal" in any day of Ramadan and to donate the cost of the meal to the rehabilitation of Marawi communities. The bishop said the prelature would take advantage of Ramadan to hold peace-building activities
especially among young Muslims and Christians in Mindanao. The five-month conflict last year between terrorist gunmen and government forces resulted in the destruction of the city and the displacement of at least 400,000 Muslim and Christian residents. Reynaldo Barnido, executive secretary of Duyog Marawi, said the Ramadan activity would not only be a symbolic gesture for Catholics but "a vow to accompany Muslims even in the hardest times." "This year's Ramadan is a celebration of victory against individuals and groups who intended to destroy the unity we're forging between Christians and Muslims," said Barnido. Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar of Marawi said fasting during Ramadan is not just skipping meals but "the transformation of the inner self of every person." "Let Ramadan be our guide towards reconciliation and peace," said the Muslim leader. "The most important lesson amidst fasting and prayer is how we learn to open ourselves to others through works of charity and service to those in need," he added. Samira Gutoc Tomawis, a civil society leader, said Duyog Ramadan "reaffirms the singleness of two different but not separated beliefs." She said Ramadan teaches us "to be like children ... free from hatred and biases." Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action arm of the Catholic bishops' conference, said the Duyog Ramadan program should be adopted across the country. "We encouraged other dioceses to accompany Muslims during the Holy Month to emphasize oneness and unity," said the priest. He said the program conveys a message of hope and solidarity in ongoing efforts to rehabilitate Marawi. To date, some 27,000 families from the most affected areas of the conflict remain in evacuation centers and transition houses around the city. Caritas Philippines, which allocated about US$92,000 for the rehabilitation of Christian and Muslim communities, appealed to the public to continue sending donations. "We have a long way ahead of us. We are not just rebuilding damaged structures but the very life of the people who have been paying the cost of war," said Father Gariguez.
Support UCA News...
As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.
That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.
Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.
UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.
We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...