Christians in Lanao Norte join Muslims in celebrating end of Ramadan

KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews / 29 July) – As Muslims ended their month-long fast, their Christian neighbors and friends brought fresh fruits and other gifts and joined the celebration of Eid ul Fitr in this municipality, known as the place where the “all-out war” in 2000 started.

In several homes in other Lanao del Norte towns – in Bacolod, Salvador and Maigo – small homes of Muslim families became scenes of joy as their Christian neighbors freely mingled with them, enjoying the religious bliss of the Ramadan.

“This is an old tradition that we wanted to revive because this can foster unity and understanding among us,” said Musa Sanguila, executive director of the Pakigdait ug Pag-amoma Alang sa Kalinaw (Pakigdait, Inc.), a non-government organization advocating peace.

Sanguila’s home in Kauswagan town was a beehive of activity as Muslims and Christians renew friendships over meals of turkey, beef and seafood cooked in  tasty Maranao cuisine under the shades of an old mango tree.

Sanguila said this tradition was very common after World War II when the Maranaos and Christians joined hands to fight the Japanese aggression.

“They were very close during the war years and after the war the two people of different faiths continued the friendship. Old timers called this era as peacetime,” Sanguila said.

He said Muslims reciprocate by joining their Christian neighbors during the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

Sanguila said this tradition broke down when the Ilagas, vigilante groups,  Barracudas and Blackshirts armed groups were organized in the 1960s and war eventually broke out.

“We are trying to revive this beautiful tradition. We call this ‘Pakigduyog’ and this is  a major contributor to erase doubts and biases,” he said.

Redemptorist priest Fr. Geovanne Quibol said this is  the first time he attended this kind of gathering and was left with lasting impression.

“It is well represented. Everyone is here, from the lumads to the military and rebels. This sure can foster unity,” Quibol said.

Bishop Stephen Villaeaster, of the Anglican Church of the Philippines and chair of the Interfaith Council for Peace in Mindanao, said they are trying to replicate this tradition to all of the places of worship in Mindanao.

“It would be nice if someone can speak about his beliefs without being prosecuted,” Villaeaster said.

He said imams, priests and religious leaders will take turns visiting the different places of worship.