“This is an issue of the nation regardless of religion.”
By HEATHER MARIAN AMOROSO
MANILA — The night commemorating the end of Ramadan became alive at the Balay Kalinaw in UP as people from all over gathered for an interfaith solidarity with the Moro community. It was a year after the infamous Marawi siege.
The guests enjoyed a glimpse of the Moro culture through various original musical acts, art works and food, which astonished everyone with their elegance.
Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar, sultan of Marawi, reiterated that the issue of Marawi is not limited just to the Maranao.
“It is important because the money that is (being) spent on Marawi is the people’s money,” He said. “Definitely, the issue of Marawi is not just the issue of Maranao. This is an issue of the nation regardless of religion.”
Sultan Atar told Bulatlat the government should address the problems of Marawi because if not dealt with correctly, it could lead to the spread of radicalism and extremism within the country.
“If we cannot address properly the grievances of the [Internally displaced people], then we are molding, we are creating a lot of radical and extremist young people and whatever action they will take in the future will impact the lives of not only the Muslims but also the non-Muslims,” Atar explained.
The National Council of Churches of the Philippines also expressed support to the Moro and indigenous peoples.
“Christians play a crucial role. The National Council of Churches, which is made up of ten mainline protestants [and non-Roman Catholic] churches, opens the doors of the church to listen to the experiences of our Moro brothers. And it is not just for simply listening but also taking action.”
At the program, a representative of the NCCP vowed that they are ready to help and it’s “for everyone, not just for some.” This help could take the form of allowing the use of the church as a sanctuary, to spreading programs in communities and to our fellow Moro brothers. The NCCP vowed that they will continue doing this, “we are ready to provide support until we fulfill the integrity for all that the church has been teaching us.”
Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox, who the Bureau of Immigration tried to drive out of the country and had her missionary visa cancelled, expressed support for the Moro community. “We should not remain quiet” in this issue, she said. She explained that for her, it is our responsibility to unite and fight all the injustices, everything that goes against the rights of the people.
“I’ve been listening to the story of the people from Mindanao, and it seems like the military openly does whatever it wants to. We should not remain quiet while those things are happening to other people. So, I am one with your fight, and I know that if we were to unite as one we would be victorious,” Fox said.
For Marawi homecoming of the bakwit
At the post-Ramadan gathering, the participants launched the “BALIK MARAWI NOW!” nationwide campaign which seeks to strengthen the calls and demands of the victims of the 2017 Marawi siege.
Jerome Aba, Chairperson of SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, said the year-long campaign, consisting of various activities, hopes to urge the government to relocate the victims back to Marawi, provide financial assistance, and a Marawi rehabilitation program that is people-centered, culture- and faith-sensitive, and peace-enabling.
They also raised the demand for the removal of military camps in Marawi.
Aba thanked the Christians who supported him during his “illegal arrest” in US last April.
“Someone asked me during a forum, after I was tortured, detained, and illegally arrested by (US) Homeland Security and the (US) Customs and Border Protection: ‘Jerome, were your torturers Christian?’ But this is not about whether he is a Christian or not, rather, it’s about the policy being followed in the US. They mark people they suspect as terrorists, like myself. They said I was a terrorist and that I have links to terrorist organizations. That’s why they said they did that to me,” Aba said.
But Aba clarified to everyone who asked him this sort of question: “Did you know that while I was detained, while I was being tortured, who were making noises against it? Who held rallies? Who called the customs and border protection over and over again? They are Christians—Priests, nuns, who called for my release, that’s why I am still here today.”
Aba concluded by signaling the start of the feast of, “Your Sadaqah: Interfaith ‘Charity of Fast Breaking.’” It was also a charity event for the “BALIK MARAWI NOW!” campaign. On the table, the interfaith gathering shared delicious meals cooked by a generous Maranao.