THE dream of the Catholic Church for interreligous dialogue and solidarity has come true and is alive in Zamboanga City, Archbishop Romulo Valles, D.D. declared during an “iftar” – the ritual breaking of the Ramadan fasting – sponsored by a local Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRMSP) last Saturday, October 6.
IRMSP convenor and Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) president Fr. Angel Calvo called the iftar “entering into a spiritual experience together” among local Muslims and Christians. He said the “pagbukah”, as the iftar is called in Tausug, has become a local tradition among some organizations ever since PAZ and IRMSP started the practice a few years ago.
“It is in moments like this, so sacred, that brings us together in the presence of God, breaking bread together in the tradition of communion, of sharing the meal, that has a spiritual connotation that is of peace”, Fr. Calvo said at the opening of the iftar.
More than 200 Muslim and Christian residents including Mayor Celso Lobregat, United Muslim Council for Peace and Development president Alim Jamal Munib, and Western Mindanao State University president Dr. Grace Rebollos – who introduced the archbishop – attended the affair, held at the Grand Astoria Hotel. Also present were Zamboanga City Christian Fellowship president Ronald Bilang, IRMSP convenor for the evangelical churches, and Jaafar Kimpa, IRMSP’s Muslim convenor. Prof. Ali Yacub gave a recital of the Qu’ran while Ustadz Nasir Usman said the iftar invocation.
IRMSP member Saad T’laa, in Iraqi who has made a home in Zamboanga City, shared his personal experiences about Ramadan while growing up in his hometown. He said the 15th, 16th and 17th nights of the Ramadan are celebrated in Iraq like the Christians’ Christmas where children go around caroling. “We hope and pray that the Holy Month of Ramadan will come to you this year and every year in good health. . .Oh, please give us your bounty and gift from what Allah has given you”, he recalled singing as a boy during the carolings with other young children.
In his talk, Archbishop Valles quoted from a document of Vatican Council-II, the landmark “Declaration of the Relationship of the Church To Non-Christian Religions,” or Nostra Etate in its original Latin title.
“Upon the Muslims the Church looks with esteem. . .They honor Mary”, he said. And he reiterated the declaration’s exhortation for the followers of the two religion to “forget the past” differences and “strive sincerely for mutual understanding.
“On behalf of all mankind”, he quoted, “let them make common cause for safeguarding and fostering social justice, moral values, peace and freedom.”
Addressing the local Muslim community, Valles said: “Thank you, our Muslim brothers and sisters, for sharing and inspiring us in this period of Ramadan how you in the Islamic faith rise to the moral life, how you give worship to God.”
He said that it is “a grace indeed” that this year, the same day of October 12 will be celebrated by local Catholics as the town’s religious feast in honor of Nuestra Señora del Pilar while Muslims will observe the Eid-l Fitri or Hariraya Puasa. Both Christians and Musims, he noted, venerate Mary as mother of Jesus.