OUR PEACE: The Ramadan Factor

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/06 August) – Human beings being primordially creatures of habit, breaking a habit like eating meals during the day is no small feat.  More so when you do that – plus some other restrictions – not just for a day or two, but for 29 consecutive days, as what each devout Muslim throughout the world is undertaking during the just started month of Ramadan.

Among the Five Pillars of Islam, the Ramadan fast of Sawm is probably the most spiritually and morally transformational because of its physically and psychically demanding nature.  It enfolds the other four “formational” pillars that are per se more sacramental and ritual in character – Shahada as profession of faith, Zakat as charity, Salat (daily prayers) as piety, and Hajj as religious fulfillment.  Fasting animates and revitalizes the Ummah and its bedrock solidarity, since it is during Ramadan more than at any other time of the year that the Muslims’ hearts beat as one, in many ways.

The jihad of self denial and denial of self surely transforms many a Muslim into a better, stronger believer.  Authentic and enlightened faith, wherein all and any kind of fear is banished and supplanted by abiding love and compassion, is essential to personal, communal and ultimately global peace.  Indeed, man does not live by bread alone.

The work for peace in Mindanao in recent years has benefited and gained strength and hope from its shift to a general strategy, mostly fostered by civil society, of interfaith bonding among the island’s culturally diverse peoples.  This cultural diversity is made a social and historical asset only when each cultural or religious community within the pluralistic society is sure and strong in its members’ religious faith.  Doubt and insecurity is the enemy of peace.

Interfaith solidarity and peace-making have been the principal conflict transformation paradigms of non-government organizations like Mindanao Peaceweavers Coalition, Silsilah Dialogue Movement, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Societies, Peace Advocates Zamboanga and Bishops-Ulama Council.

The “culture of peace” which these organizations are nurturing and promoting in Mindanao to overcome its many forms of unpeace is greatly anchored on the transcendental power of religion.   Hence, this culture of peace’s indispensable value to long-term, genuine peace in the region should not be lost to any sector, especially to the incumbent Aquino government as it initiates now a three-pronged strategy for peace for Mindanao.   Sealing a political agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, demobilizing armed groups and boosting the socio-economic development of conflicted communities are critical.  Sustainability and growth, however, will depend entirely on social capital, one whose main fountainhead – a matter of collective attitude – is inter-religious solidarity and culture of peace.

Mindanao, like the rest of the world, will inevitably become even more multi-cultural as time goes by.  It is religion – and religious practices like the Ramadan fast – that engenders in people a sense of history and hope, of personal space and security.  For this, too, shall our hearts – be it Muslim, Christian or Lumad – beat as one during this great and holy month of Ramadan.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Our Peace is written by the Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

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