MARAWI/MANILA – At exactly 6:30 Sunday morning, Muslims who had flocked to the mosque at Lanao del Sur provincial capitol began their prayers to observe the end of Ramadan or the Eid’l Fitr.
Many of those who came were evacuees who had taken refuge at the capitol compound since the Marawi siege began May 23.
The imam wept, describing this year’s Eid’l Fitr as the saddest he has seen, after the siege caused by the Maute Group-led forces forced most of Marawi’s 200,000 residents to flee. Hundreds of homes and buildings have been displaced, including some of the once-bustling city’s noted landmarks.
The imam, Alim Ansari “Abuanas” Abdul Malik, explained his tears: “Naiyak ako kanina dahil ipinanalangin ko kay Allah na mabawi ang Marawi sa kamay ng extremist [at sana] ang mga tao ay makabalik sa kanilang lugar [I cried earlier because I was praying to Allah, asking his help in re-taking Marawi from the hands of extremists, so the people can return home].”
In his preaching, Abuanas advised his brother Muslims not to accept with resignation what is happening to Marawi, not to lose heart, and stay the course of true Muslims who denounce violence espoused by militants.
“Dapat i-embrace nila. Kasi nangyari ito sa mahal nating propeta. . . Palakasin nila ang kanilang koneksyon kay Allah. Huwag silang gumawa ng masama. Dapat sila’y manatili na maging tunay na Muslim tulad ng pagdidroga,” the imam added.
He called on the faithful to reject strongly the Maute Group and other extremists who coerce people to change their religion.
“Walang pagpupwersa. Hindi pwedeng pwersahan ang isa sa pagiging Muslim [There must be no coercion. A person must not be forced to become a Muslim].”
For decades, Muslims and Christians have lived in harmony in the Muslim-dominated progressive city of Marawi. Since the siege began, media reports have played up many accounts of Muslims shielding their Christian neighbors or employees from the wrath of the Maute Group, which has been courting full recognition from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
After the rites, many in the crowd wept openly.
Hadji Mohammad Mural Moti said, “iba sa ibang dinaanan namin na Eid’l Fitr. Hindi namin kasama ang mga kapamilya namin [This is different from past Eid’l Fitrs. We are separated from some loved ones].”
In deference to the religious feast, a “humanitarian ceasefire” was declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police from 6am Sunday to 2pm.
However, authorities said this temporary halt in fighting may be cut short if they determine that the safety of civilians and the troops would be in jeopardy, or if the enemy starts an assault.
The humanitarian ceasefire was planned jointly by the local government unit, the adhoc joint action group or AJAG, the office of the presidential adviser on the peace process (OPAPP), and the government security sector.
Because of the lack of supply of food and water, some evacuees did away with the usual lavish feast for the day and said they will spend much of the day praying and bonding with family and their fellow civilians.
The 78 families at the Barangay Bito-Buadi-It
evacuation center have been taking turns cooking, using the only available cauldron in the place.
They are also rationing their water because they have to fetch this from a far source.
And, if there is no rain, they forego taking baths.
According to Sabdulla Adting, imam at the evacuation center, “yung tubig naman umaasa lang kami sa ulan. Pag umuulan nakakaligo kami. Pero yung iniinom namin, malayo yung kunukuhanan namin ng tubig [For taking showers, we only rely on the rains. But the one we drink, we have to get that from a faraway place].”
Department of Health-ARMM Secretary Kadil Sinolinding visited some of the evacuation centers Saturday.
The DOH-ARMM team examined the infants and gave away medicine.
Sinolinding promised to redress the lack of water, adding that “we have partners who provide such kind of services, and that’s what we are asking from them.”
Solidarity from Muslims in Manila
In Manila, meanwhile, Muslims gathered to mark the end of Ramadan at the Quirino Grandstand for prayers at past 6am Sunday.
Preaching to the crowd, the imam said the true Muslim is not a terrorist, and cherishes life, whatever the religion of a person or station in lilfe.
They collected donations or salawat from the Muslim attendees at the grandstand, to be sent to those affected by the war in Marawi.
The Muslims in Manila offered their celebration of Eid’l Fitr 2017 for Marawi to be able to rise again.
They appealed to President Duterte to end the war in Marawi so the Muslims there can rebuild their lives and homes.
After prayers, the Muslims had a feast for their families at the Luneta park.