Ahead of Ramadan, Marawi residents pray for lasting peace
MANILA, Philippines – How will Muslims, especially those in and around crisis-hit Marawi City, observe the holy month of Ramadan?
Marawi resident Junaina Sharief, a Muslim who was among the thousands of people who were directly affected by the clashes in her city, raised this concern.
On Tuesday afternoon, May 23, clashes erupted in Marawi City as the military moved to hunt down "high-value targets" belonging to the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The encounter, which happened ahead of the start of Ramadan on Saturday, May 27, led President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao.
According to Sharief, this is the saddest Ramadan that they will welcome.
"Before this worst nightmare, everyone was preparing for the coming of Ramadan, just like Christians do when Christmas is coming. We clean our houses, buy our needs, and just prepare everything that we usually do every Ramadan," Sharief said.
However, due to the attacks and the consequent martial law declaration, many families were forced to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in temporary shelters in nearby provinces. (READ: Students walk 32 kilometers to flee Marawi)
Describing the situation as the "worst nightmare that every Maranao could ever dream of," Sharief said many Muslims who decided to stay in Marawi are now clueless on how they will observe Ramadan amid the crisis.
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. One of the Five Pillars of Islam, the observance of the Ramadan serves as the foundation of the Islamic faith.
During this month, Muslims fast, pray, read the Qur’an, and reflect on their deeds and sacrifices for Allah.
Following the alarming situation in her hometown, Sweetzel Garcia, a Christian and a student of Mindanao State University (MSU)-Marawi, appealed to the Maute Group to stop its activities.
Garcia shared with Rappler her experience: she heard gunshots and she saw how fire broke out at various establishments in Marawi City on Tuesday.
More than disrupting the way of life of Marawi residents, the encounter, according to Garcia, will mostly affect Muslims.
“I beg the group to stop claiming the area and to be considerate especially because the time for Ramadan is approaching. I hope that they will give our brothers and sisters a time to celebrate their sacred feast,” she said.
About 99.6% of the population of Lanao del Sur capital of Marawi are Muslims. Garcia said that many of the residents were preparing for Ramadan when the attacks broke out across the small city.
Angelie Belderol-Obosa, 26, another Christian MSU-Marawi student, shared the sentiment. Obosa was in the city when the clashes happened.
“Sana po ay matutunan naman nilang irespeto ang bawat isa, lalo na at paparating na ang Ramadan ng mga Muslim (I hope they learn how to respect all kinds of faiths, especially with the observance of Ramadan for the Muslims)," Obosa said.
On Thursday, May 25, Obosa traveled to Davao del Norte to escape the clashes. She shared that she was overwhelmed by the number of people who handed out free food and water in the surrounding towns of Marawi – a great silver lining amid the crisis.
Christian churches also slammed the "undue haste in declaring martial law" in Mindanao, urging the President to "address the issues that gave rise to this conflict, not through an all-out war but through peaceful means."
Peace in Mindanao
Sharief expressed her gratitude for the overwhelming support and concern that they have received from people of different faiths.
"Thank you for not making us feel that we are different...for not letting us be left behind. You made us feel that indeed this is not the time to be political. This is the time for us to be united, for the people of Marawi and for our countrymen," Sharief said.
Despite everything, the young Muslim said she remains steadfast in her faith. Along with thousands of Muslims in Marawi City, Sharief will observing Ramadan amid gunfire and explosions.
Her utmost prayers for Ramadan? An end to the gunfight and lasting peace in Mindanao. – with reports from Kurt dela Peña/Rappler.com
Kurt Dela Peña is a Rappler intern