Pres. Aquino hosts “belated dinner” for Eid’l Fitr on September 13

DAVAO CiTY (MindaNews/10 September) — President Benigno S. Aquino III will host a “belated dinner” on September 13 in celebration of Eid’l Fitr, the end of Ramadan, today (September 10).

This will be the first formal sit down dinner by President Aquino, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda explained.

“The delay in holding the dinner is to give the Muslim leaders time to celebrate the feast with their families,” the Presidential Communications Operations Office, reported in its website.

“The President’s general relationship with the estimated 4.7 million Muslim Filipinos is based on the fact that majority of the Muslims nationwide voted for him during the 2010 presidential elections. His parents, too, share a special closeness with the Muslims. Ninoy was the one who exposed the Jabidah Massacre while President Cory enshrined in the Philippine constitution the autonomy of Muslim Mindanao through the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” the PCOO added.

Lacierda said the main celebration of Eid’l Fitr is done during the Eid itself but celebrations extend a few days after the end of Ramadan.

The Philippines recognizes Eid’l Fitr as a regular holiday nationwide under Republic Act 9177 of Nov. 13, 2002.

Another Islamic holiday that is now a national holiday is Eid’l Adha, the feast of the Sacrifice, under RA 9849 passed on December 11, 2009.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs on September 8 hosted an Iftar Reception for ambassadors from members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and Muslim leaders in the Philippines. Samira Gutoc of the Young Moro Professionals said there was even a kulintang performance by the Mindanao State University and the DFA Muslim Personnel Association.

Several embassies have been hosting Iftar, the evening meal to break the fast, during the Ramadan. Iftar is usually done as a community.

Among the embassies that hosted Iftar are Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The United Kingdom and United States ambassadors in Manila also hosted Iftar receptions on September 2 and 7, respectively.

In his blog posted at Global Conversations of the Foreign Commonwealth Office on September 3, British Ambassador to Manila Stephen Lillie wrote he hosted an Iftar at his residence on September 2 for the embassy’s friends and contacts from the Filipino Muslim community.

“For those not familiar with this custom, Iftar is a meal Muslims take at sunset to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. When I took up my job as ambassador last year, an Iftar was one of the first events I hosted. I hope this will now be a regular annual occurrence at this embassy,” said Lillie.

US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas, Jr., meanwhile, hosted an Iftar Reception on September 7 at his residence in Makati City.

Thomas delivered US President Barack Obama’s message, part of which reads: “Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God. This is a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But Ramadan is also a time of intense devotion and reflection — a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night; when Muslims provide support to others to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build — and the changes that we want to make — must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities.”

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, in a message to Muslims on Eid’l Fitr, said, “We share in your joy as you visit your relatives, friends and neighbors. We share in your sentiments of charity as you give alms and help the needy and the poor. We, Christians, have similar values in our traditions that stem from the message and example of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He said he learned that the al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue among Monotheistic Religions in Cairo is reflecting on the theme: “Together in overcoming violence among followers of different religions” and that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome is doing the same.

“How imperative this topic has been for us in the past several decades in our beloved Mindanao, especially as the search for peace hopefully resumes,” Quevedo wrote.

“The month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr stir in your hearts deep religious sentiments of joy, of fellowship, and of charity. On our part we shall soon celebrate the season of Advent, a season for us of physical and spiritual sacrifice, a special time to combat our inner passions and act for the good of others. May we seize the moment of these spiritual experiences to pray and act together for peace. With the Almighty and most beneficent God, we can surely prevail over all obstacles and finally come to that just and lasting peace we all desire,” he said.

Fr. Ramon Ma. Bernabe, OMI Provincial Superior, in his message dated September 10, said the missionaries of OMI “have toiled shoulder to shoulder with Muslims in Southern Philippines, specifically in the then Empire Archipelago of Sulu and the then Empire Province of Cotabato” for “over 75 years.”

“Through the years, the collaboration between Muslims and Christians, as can be gleaned in the building of Notre Dame Schools, clinics and other social action projects, has engendered a legacy of friendship and partnership between Christians and Muslims notwithstanding the vagaries of war and conflict,” Bernabe added.

He said Eid’l Fitr “provides the occasion to renew this bond of friendship between our two faiths communities. It is precisely in the remembrance of this friendship that we are hopeful for a better future not only for Mindanao but also for all its inhabitants.”

No Eid’l Fitr message has been issued by the OPAPP and Malacanang which both issued messages at the start of the Ramadan this year.

But Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles told MindaNews the President will deliver his message during the Eid’l Fitr dinner on Monday. (MindaNews)