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Manila: When Ramadan begins in the Philippines, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar turns into a time for Filipinos of different faiths to come together. 

Around 80 percent of the Philippines’ more than 110 million people are Roman Catholics, whereas Muslims make up about 10 percent of the population. 

Throughout Ramadan, which began on March 12 this year, Filipinos get together for the solidarity iftars known as Duyog Ramadan. The tradition first started in the 1970s in Mindanao, where Christian churches — a minority in the predominantly Muslim region — sponsored meals for Muslim communities to break their fast. This practice has since been adopted by various groups in the Philippines. 

FASTFACTS

• The tradition of Duyog Ramadan began in the 1970s in Mindanao.

• Duyog is a Cebuano word that means ‘to accompany.’

• Interfaith organizations hope to embody the spirit of Ramadan to promote love and peace.

The Moro-Christian People’s Alliance held one such event with the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila in mid-March, aiming to build a deeper connection between Muslims and Christians. 

The MCPA said Duyog Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to share with the Catholic community their challenges, as they struggle with a lack of social services and face racism and exploitation from landowners and authorities. 

“(Christians) can help to highlight these issues and combat chauvinism and prejudice against Muslims,” MCPA Secretary-General Amirah Ali Lidasan told Arab News.

“We believe that Muslim-Christian interaction should not be limited to religious narratives. It should also address difficulties that Muslims and Christians experience in similar ways, such as human rights violations, poverty, landlessness, migration, and others.”

As some Muslim communities often feel unheard, Lidasan believes solidarity from other communities can help amplify their voices. 

“This is where the Christian religious community can help amplify the victims’ voices, which is why we invite them to attend our events, particularly during Ramadan, to listen to the voices on the ground. We also learn from our fellow Christian religious communities about how they face similar violations and fight for their rights,” she said. 

The interfaith solidarity events take on a deeper meaning this year after Daesh militants targeted a Catholic Mass in the southern Philippine city of Marawi last December in a bombing that killed at least four people and injured 50 others. 

Edwin de la Pena, the bishop of Marawi, has urged Filipino Catholics to accompany Muslims in their efforts to fast, pray and build peace in their community for this year’s Duyog Ramadan movement. Duyog is a Cebuano word that means “to accompany.”

The bishop has also encouraged his fellow priests to “seek your homilies during Ramadan and think about possibilities for communal action to promote the common good, care for the earth, and build peace through dialogue of life and faith.”

Other interfaith organizations, such as the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, hope to embody the spirit of Ramadan to promote love and peace. 

“In this critical time of history, with calamities, climate change, and signs of world war, we have to be united in the spirit of the month of Ramadan to reflect on what we can do together to promote love in all its aspects,” said Silsilah, a non-governmental organization of Muslims and Christians. 

“The concept of dialogue as an expression of love is what we try to live and share in many ways, and we see that the spirit of Ramadan is a journey in this direction. Thus, while all religions have specific ways to fast, pray and do acts of charity, we need to be united in the central point of spirituality, which is love.” 

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