“Like other religions, Islam and Christianity teach about a world that is free, peaceful and happy – the end of exploitation, oppression, poverty and violence, in all societies past and present in the history of the world.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Some 50 progressive Muslims and Christians came together to break the fast at sundown May 31, in a symbolic show of unity amid growing Islamophobia and the conflict in Marawi city this holy month of Ramadan.
Dubbed “Duyog Ramadan,” Christians joined Muslims in a solidarity iftar – the meal taken at sundown – as they came together in prayer for the safety of residents in embattled Marawi city, and in the call for President Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao.
This is not just a symbolic sharing of a meal, but also being one with their suffering and journey in the struggle for the right to self-determination, said Protestant pastor Rev. Irma Balaba of Pilgrims for Peace and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
At 6:30 p.m., bowls of steaming egg arrozcaldo with chicken shreds, garlic and chives served as the iftar at the Café Oikoumene inside the compound of the NCCP compound in Quezon city.
The solidarity meal was the culmination of yesterday’s activities, led by the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA). Starting in the early afternoon with the forum, “Ramadan in the time of martial law,” the assembly then came out to stage a protest outside the NCCP gates along Edsa to call for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
“Duyog” is the Cebuano word meaning “to accompany.” The tradition of Duyog Ramadan begun in the late 70s in Muslim-Christian communities in Mindanao, where Christian churches sponsor meals for the whole community, in solidarity with Muslims breaking their fast at sundown. The tradition caught on even in Metro Manila, where various Christian denominations – Aglipay, Protestant, Roman Catholic – promote unity with Muslims through Duyog Ramadan.
Balaba said the two religions are both born out of the desire to be free from oppression, which is the shared aspiration of Filipino Muslims and Christians who are bound by a common history and struggle. “We have more reasons to unite than to fight,” she said.
“What Muslims do during Ramadan is no different from how Christians conduct fasting,” she said. It is a time to reflect on one’s sins, on sacrifice and how to improve one’s relations with God and others.
What you didn’t know: the similarities between Christianity and Islam
For the forum, the MCPA released its publication material on Duyog Ramadan, which aims to promote unity between Muslims and Christians, whose religions have many things in common. The brochure will be distributed in Muslim and other communities.
“Both religions are based on the worship of one God, love and caring for others,” the MCPA brochure read. For Muslims, there is only Allah, the one and only God; while Christians, particularly Roman Catholics, believe in the Holy Trinity of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Both Islam and Christianity also acknowledge the Virgin Mary, her immaculate conception and giving birth to Jesus Christ. In the holy Qu’ran, however, Jesus is recognized as a prophet and a mortal, unlike Christians who worship him as the son of God, thus, also God.
Both religions also have a concept of life after death, heaven and salvation, which can be attained by following the teachings of God for Christians, or Allah for Muslims.
“Like other religions, Islam and Christianity teach about a world that is free, peaceful and happy – the end of exploitation, oppression, poverty and violence in all societies past and present in the history of the world,” read the brochure.
Moro-Christian unity in times of conflict
Among those at the forum were progressive leaders from Mindanao, including Lumad leader Datu Jimboy Mandaguit of San Fernando, Bukidnon. Only in his 20s, Mandaguit has experienced numerous bombings, harassment, killings and evacuation by his Tigwahanon community in Namnam. When he heard of the government’s aerial strikes against the extremist armed group in Marawi City, he commiserated with the residents as he recalled the bombings in his own community.
“I felt sad when they bombed Marawi. What for, when it’s supposed to be already under control?” he told the gathering. His community has evacuated to the provincial capitol in Malaybalay city since April 22 after soldiers strafed houses.
“Lumad, Muslims, Maranaos…let us all unite and not fight. We are all Filipinos,” he said.
Maguindanao Datu Jerome Succor Aba, national president of Suara Bangsamoro, lamented that some people are even fanning Islamophobia, because of the attack by the extremist Maute group. He said he even heard some soldiers manning a checkpoint in Marawi city explaining that the crisis was “due to fighting between Muslims and Christians.”
On the other hand, mainstream media had been reporting about daring feats by “white helmets,” the Muslim government employees who rescue Christians trapped amid the fighting.
On the part of Manila-based non-Muslim groups, many are busy gathering support for the largely Muslim evacuees affected by the conflict, which is expected to have lingering impact on displaced civilians.
“This is a challenge to all of us – Christian, Moro, indigenous peoples – to hold on and continue our unity,” Balaba said.