In a gesture of solidarity, Filipino Catholics joined Muslims in the war-torn city of Marawi to kick off the start of Ramadan this week.
About a thousand Christians and Muslims participated in the annual “Duyog Ramadan” celebration which was spearheaded by the Catholic prelature in Marawi, according to a report in UCANews.
Since 1979 the Church, has encouraged Christian families to “accompany” Muslim residents of the city, by fasting, praying, and serving the poor.
This year’s event comes at a very difficult time for both Muslims and Christians in Marawi. A five-month conflict between pro-Islamic State terrorists and government forces that left destruction in its wake and displaced 400,000 Muslims and Christians from Marawi, the only majority-Muslim city in the Philippines.
“After the destruction of the city, Catholics need to show more solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Father Gary Alvarado, head of the group Duyog Marawi, told UCANews.
Reynaldo Barnido, executive secretary of the group, said that the event helps reinforce the bond between followers of the two religions.
“This year’s Ramadan is a celebration of victory against individuals and groups who intended to destroy the unity we’re forging between Christians and Muslims,” Barnido. told UCANEWS.
Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar of Marawi hailed fasting as a way to “the transformation of the inner self of every person.”
“Let Ramadan be our guide towards reconciliation and peace,” the Muslim leader told UCANews.
Six months after Marawi was liberated, displaced Christians have been slow to return to a city where so much has been destroyed, according to an article at ReliefWeb.
Barnido told ReliefWeb that until last year Muslims had co-exited peacefully with Christians in the city. The 84-year old St. Mary’s Cathedral was among the buildings destroyed by military bombs during the city’s liberation.
Catholic bishops who visited the heavily damaged cathedral in March determined that it would have to be demolished.
“One of the bishops knelt on the ground. It was very sad to see what happened to the church,” Barnido said.