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Eidil-Fitr with Grand Mufti and Archbishop in fraternal embrace ((Part I)

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“…you will find the nearest among men in love to the believers (to be) those who say: “We are Christians” because there are among them priests and monks, and they are not arrogant. When they listen to that which has been revealed unto the Messenger, you see their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth”

—Holy Qur’an, 5:82-83

“Your God and ours is the same, and we are brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham.”

—Pope John Paul II to participants in the Colloquium on “Holiness in Christianity and Islam,” 9th May 1985.

“The Qur’an warns believers that if they start disputing with each other they will weaken and as a consequence they will be defeated”

—Mohammad Ali Shomali, MARY, JESUS AND CHRISTIANITY: An Islamic Perspective

THE 1974 PILGRIMAGE (THE HAJJ) TO MECCA

I was one of the 800 Muslim pilgrims from Mindanao, after a hiatus of two years, the Hajj which was suspended by President Marcos after declaring Martial Law in 1972. All travels, indeed, outside the Philippines were banned, thus, the Hajj was not exempted from such declaration.

On board the ship chartered by the government, I was one of the fortunates (?) who joined the Hajj representing the media, the rest were military men, some from the “MNLF returnees”, others handpicked by the government, the rest from the intelligence of the AFP, we were told.

I can remember with us were the late former CNI Commissioner Hja Saphia M. Alrashid and the late Hji Datu Tabudjur Taupan, the last for their pilgrimage. We left Zamboanga port on the night of December 23, 1973. (Both peaceweaver awardees later)

After the Hajj Rites, we returned to the Philippines, it was already another year. We arrived on February 8, 1974, two days before we arrived, Jolo was burned to the ground (in 1974) by the MNLF, we were told.

Thus, somewhere near Palawan we were intercepted by the Philippine Navy and MV Sweet Love the ship of the pilgrims was escorted to the Port of Cebu where all of us (Zamboanga, Basilan, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi) were transferred to another Navy Ship for Zamboanga City. We were all shocked by that reception.

The reason: the ship was loaded with smuggled firearms destined for the MNLF, we were told. I will not touch on that horrible incident.

The rest is history, my friends.

OCTOBER 1974: A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE END OF THE HOLY RAMADAN FAST

Fresh from the Holy Land of Mecca, we were all met by the sad news of so many evacuees from Jolo and Tawi-Tawi not only by the hundreds but by thousands, all sought sanctuary in Zamboanga City. Further, we learned, not only from Jolo and Tawi-Tawi but some from neighboring Basilan and the Zamboanga Peninsula. Zamboanga City, “Orgullo de Mindanao” was unprepared to handle such humanitarian crisis.  People seeking security and protection from a small city, like Zamboanga, but there was no way to turn-away these hapless refugees. All were welcome, even the families and relatives of the MNLF sought sanctuary in this interfaith City. From that day onward, Zamboanga was never the same again.

Many Christian families of means left the city fearful of so many Muslims in their “old town”, but those with good heart stayed and even helped the Muslims coming from other areas adjust to their new found “home”.

But suspicion and hidden animosity towards the “new visitors” were in the air and so we, thought, something must be done, to assuage and assure the feelings of the Christian Zamboangueños that the Muslims seeking sanctuary in the city were not here to displace them, but need their help so they can live in peace and comfort, and be in harmony with the rest of the residents of the city.

THE EIDIL-FITRI 1974: THE FRATERNAL EMBRACE BETWEEN THE GRAND MUFTI AND THE ARCHBISHOP NEVER REPLICATED TO THIS DAY

Days before the end of Ramadan 1974, some of us (this writer included), the late Hji. Yasin Sakaluran, the late Prof. Amilussin A. Jumaani, and some others, presented the idea of inviting the Archbishop of Zamboanga City, His Excellency Francisco R. Cruses, D.D. to join us on Eidil-Fitri Day.

When presented to the residents of Campo Muslim, there was almost a near-riot in the Mosque because, they said how in the world can a priest, an Archbishop enter a sacred territory—the Mosque of the Muslims on such holy day—the Edil-Fitri after the Ramadan fast?

But Hji. Yasin Sakaluran stood pat on the idea of inviting a religious visitor. He (Hj. Yasin) being the president of the Campo Muslim Mosque Islamic Council, so to it, that this was done!

It just occurred to this writer, that to settle the dispute and end it once-and-for all, we refer the matter to the highest Islamic authority who was staying in community that time in the “obscure village of Campo Muslim” where many of us also were residents of the area.

His Eminence Ustadz Abdulgani Yusop, AL-Hj. in his peaceful demeanor and fatherly bearing approved the idea, and even told us that this is nothing new to him, because in Egypt where the venerable Islamic Institution is found—the Al-Azha University—Christian and Muslim religious authorities exchange visits and join such festivity as Christmas and the two Eids (Hariraya Fitri and sat with them during EidiL Adha) their religious ceremonies. (To be continued…)




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