By Ali Macabalang
MARAWI CITY – This year’s Ramadan, the month of fasting among Muslims worldwide, began Saturday dawn without the usual reverberating sounds of azan (call to prayer) in most local mosques, something phenomenal here being the lone “Islamic City” in the country.
“For the first time in more than a century, azan… did not reverberate in the Islamic City of Marawi on the first dawn of Ramadan,” said Malik Ganda, one of very few residents who opted to stick it out and spend “difficult observance” of fasting in this city.
The absence of loud azans indicated not only the bleakest advent of Ramadan here but also the stark conversion of this busy city into a ghost community since the May 23 attack of Islamic State-backed militants, Ganda said.
Fasting during Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, is mandated to all Muslims of sound mind and body, exempting only the insane, sick or traveling individuals and the lactating or menstruating women. The dawn-to-dusk abstinence covers food, drinks, even smoking and sex for 30 days.
The exodus to safer areas elsewhere of majority of the city’s 201,700 residents has emptied most of the 96 villages, notably the 160 mosques where Muslim faithful used to spend more time in past observances of Ramadan.
Azans, albeit toned down by fear-stricken residents, can only be heard from five or six mosques inside the Mindanao State University (MSU) main campus here because native Muslim students, employees and faculty members stand their ground with government authorities assuring their safety.
Dr. Linang Cabugatan, head of the MSU’s Aga Khan Museum, said two platoons of Marine troops arrived Saturday to augment the university’s pool of 400 security guards backed by 45 cops and 45 Army soldiers on detail.
Non-Muslim students, employees and faculty members were already transported out of the MSU campus to refuge centers in Iligan City and other safer grounds by 50 vans chartered by the university leadership, Cabugatan said.
She said MSU president Habib Macaayong has required all individual residents staying inside the campus to submit the names and basic profiles of their households because the freshly deployed Marine troops “will embark on house-to-house operations.”
Relief and rescue workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) arrived here Friday and have since been assisting in transporting some 1,300 residents stranded in other villages outside MSU campus.
“Our team has finally entered Marawi City (Friday morning) and delivered 1,000 water jugs to the displaced families at the provincial capitol, and transported at least 300 residents from Marawi to the evacuation center in Saguiaran (Lanao de Sur),” Pascal Porchet, ICRC head of delegation, said in a statement furnished The Manila Bulletin.
In Iligan, Porchet said, the ICRC has prepositioned medical supplies to reinforce the capacity of rural health units in addressing the basic health needs of displaced people, assuring that basic medicines, antibiotics, dressing materials as well as injectable medication and intravenous fluids “can support 30,000 people in three months.”
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