It will not be a festive Eid’l Fitr for the Muslim community of Mindanao today. For the first time in two decades, there will be no grand celebration in the open field in front of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Cotabato City.
Instead, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said, personnel of the regional government and their immediate relatives will hold their congregational prayer and religious rituals inside the compound of the Blue Mosque. The ARMM complex in Cotabato City is deemed the center of Muslim government in the country – the “regional Malacañang of the South.”
The ARMM, Governor Hataman said, does not want to take any chances that the militants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Abu Sayyaf, and the Dawla Islamiya might use the occasion of Eid’l Fitr to mount an attack. The Dawla Islamiya is what the military call the Maute Group which recently attacked Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.
In the Lanao region itself, the Islamic clerics appealed to the Islamic militants and the government forces to halt the fighting even for just a day to allow the peaceful celebration of Eid’l Fitr, one of the two holiest days in the Muslim faith, the other being Eid al-Adha.
Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid’l-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It is recognized by the Philippine government as an official national holiday by virtue of Republic Act 9177 and Presidential Proclamation 1083. The Philippines is the only Christian-majority country to do so.
Shortly after the breakout of fighting in Marawi City last month, ulamas in the Lanao region gathered in Cagayan de Oro to appeal to both sides in behalf of some 200,000 Marawi residents who have suffered from the conflict. They appealed to President Duterte – “We believe you have a heart for us and you are the hope in our dream to bring finally our community to greater heights,” Alim Amerodden Sarangani said in behalf of 23 Islamic groups that attended the Cagayan de Oro conference. At the same time, he called on “our younger brethren” in Dawla Islamiya – the Maute Group said to be supported by the international Islamic State – to also silence their guns and distance themselves from Marawi.
We join in hopes that the appeals for peace will be heeded by all sides today, Eid’l Fitr. A ceasefire may also provide an opportunity to end the fighting that has already destroyed so many lives along with so many homes and futures not only in Marawi City but also in other parts of Mindanao.
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