Interfaith CSO Tenders Iftar Get-Together for Arena Blanco Folks

As it has done annually during the Holy Month of Ramadan for many years now, the civil society group Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) once again sponsored a fast-breaking Iftar last Saturday, June 27, this time for the pre-dominantly Muslim residents of Arena Blanco barangay, Zamboanga City.

In his message to the villagers and their guests, ISP lead convenor Fr. Angel Calvo said the Iftar celebration expresses the interfaith peace advocates’ solidarity with one another as well as the less privileged members of a community like Arena Blanco in their shared search for social harmony in the city. Hence, he said, not only local Muslim believers who fast but everyone else advocating peace are challenged to share the sense of goodwill and unity not only during the Ramadan month but throughout the year.

The “pagbukah”, as Iftar is called in Tausug, was also attended by the barangay schools’ teachers and councilmen, selected government agency officials including the police and military, civil society and humanitarian agency representatives, youths including members of the Muslim Students Association, and staffers of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA).  Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), a partner under ZABIDA, is the secretariat of ISP.

In his sharing of the significance of Ramadan, Prof. Ali Yacub, the Muslim convenor of ISP, said “Today (June 27) is the 10th day of Ramadan, and as we did last year . . we are again in fellowship, in the name of our most cherished tradition, an interreligious gathering of believers.” Yacub, who is president of Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace Builders and Affiliates, added that “as we approach Iftar let us remember once more that in the month of Ramadan the spirit of charity and compassion towards the poor and the needy and (be reminded) each believer of the needs of the other believers.”

The ceremonial breaking of the fast was made by Yacub, Fr. Calvo, IP convenor Dr. Pendatun Talib, and the representative of evangelicals convenor Atty. Paulino Ersando.

In his keynote address to the gathering, Lt. Col. Taharudin P. Ampatuan. Commander of the 4th Civil Relations Group, CRS, AFP based in the Western Mindanao Command, said: “As a peacemaker or practitioner of peacemaking Ramadan teaches me with new model of conflict resolution, in fact the very concept of prohibition before the occurrence of conflict resonates character, values and attitude. Ramadan teaches us not just to prevent conflict but as a person, our norms makes conflict irrelevant.”

“Ramadan is time for creating a model of Muslim conflict resolution that is far more preventive in its approach than interventionist,” he said. Ampatuan hold three masters’ degrees and is completing a doctorate in public administration in the University of the Philippines. He is highly trained in counter-insurgency by the AFP. 

“In this month of Ramadan,” he further said, “it is also very timely because the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that intends to address the conflict in Southern Philippines was stalled in congress. I share the position of those who supports it, that the BBL is not possibly the magic pill that will transcend hundred percent peace in Bangsamoro areas, but at least it provides an alternative for un-peaceful situation to a possible turn around for a peaceful environment conducive for sustainable development. The peace process must go on, and peace producer like us should stand in cohesion to support initiatives that will achieve peace for our people.”

The Arena Blanco National High School served as venue of the event. Its principal, Garry Sta. Ana, gave the welcome remarks. WMSU professor Al-Rashid Jama was the master of ceremony. (ZABIDA)

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