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Lent and Ramadan for Peace & Development

When Christians and Muslims meet anywhere in the world, they have only one desire and prayer: peace and development.

Today, April 4, the SED-CHEd project staff of the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation (MPCF), Tabang Bikol Movement (TBM), and Central Bicol State University in Agriculture (CBSUA) met Brother Mike Mustafa, head of the Maranao Guild of Solidarity and Chair of the Muslims Community Affairs Office of Naga City to talk peace and development. Brother Mike was with Harud Mustafa, his 25-year-old son who was born and had lived outside Mindanao since war broke out in that strife-riddled island of the country in the 70s until the 90s. Harud said he had not set foot on the land of his parents’ birth for a longest time. I invited Brod Mike over to fulfill a long-ago promise of mutual friendship and solidarity since we last met at their community in Concepcion Pequena before the Pandemic.

Dr. Cely Binoya led the team’s warm welcome for Brother Mike, who expressed deep gratitude for the dialogue and most awaited partnership. We previously discussed the TBM’s HEAL program promoting sustainable and resilient communities with meaningful health, environment, and alternative livelihood interventions for inclusive development. We agreed that inclusive development is a shared dream and an inevitable consequence of struggle.

Dr. Binoya is the SED program leader and an expert in DRRM and its disaster prevention and mitigation, disaster preparedness, disaster response, rehabilitation, and recovery. The Social Enterprise Development project of the Commission on Higher Education is a timely development intervention as the Pandemic restrictions loosen up and the country gears for recovery and economic resilience. I smiled at the realization that our project team is ecumenical, whose individual members belong to different faith groups known for their openness and accommodation for shared goals to improve people’s lives, especially the poor and marginalized.

Christians and Muslims

Christians and Muslims comprise the most influential faith groups or religions worldwide. The rest are Hindus, Buddhists, and others—more than half of the Christians as Catholics. Like the rest of the country outside of Mindanao, Bicol is a predominantly Catholic region. There is a sprinkling of other Christian groups, variations of existing or established old ones. Faith is a developing phenomenon in the continuing search for certainty and sustainability. People look for saviors and redeemers when there is war and anxiety for the present and future.

People want and desire positive attributes for peace and love regardless of religious affiliation and conviction. They get together for common causes of peace and reconciliation, equality, inclusion, justice, and development. They oppose repression, persecution, and oppression. They contemplate the realities of poverty, inequality, and injustice. They know these are the roots of the continued unresolved and protracted social conflicts that often erupt into open fighting between armed rebels and state troops. So why is there insurgency? Why is there a significant social divide between the poor and the rich? They all desire government programs and projects that promote nothing more than peace and development.

When Brother Mike and the SED team met, I saw the spirit of ecumenism, solidarity, and mutual respect of brothers and sisters talking and sharing. It was a beautiful feeling to behold during this season of fasting and caring. When they arrived at the Mariners office and began to exchange notes, Brother Mike said he felt a surge of hope rush to his consciousness and well-being.

Lent and Ramadan

The Christians began the 40-day Lenten season on February 22, ending on April 6, 2023. The Muslims started their Ramadan on March 23 to end after 29-30 days on April 2. So last year, 2022, the Passover, Ramadan, and Easter all fell on the same month of April, a coincidence about every 33 years.

During this season, the rituals of fasting and sharing are alive. Together as one or as individuals in their own homes, community members observe fasting or abstinence; there is increased worship, deepened reflection, heightened charitable works, and good deeds to others, especially people with low incomes community social work.

In my travels here and abroad, I never felt the religious difference as a factor for underdevelopment and deprivation. Instead, the inequality of access to the country’s wealth and government services are the social culprits. Everyone -Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindi – should be equal.

It is during Lent and Ramadan that, hopefully, guns go silent on the battlefields. These are times to step back for deep reflection. It is the time to be burdened and be unburdened.

For the committed Christians who shall embark on their traditional way of the cross today until the Holy Saturday, the lines, “Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang,” from the song Pananagutan by Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, SJ evoke such a powerful call to find ways in which we can share each other’s burden – to be in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, like the burden of the cross too great that Jesus fell three times along the way to his death but to resurrect and triumph in the end. Time to get together for genuine and just peace!


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