In Phillipines: Faith will see us through say Rody

Duterte calls for fostering of nat’l unity on Eid’l Fitr

MANILA, Philippines – Amid the hostilities in Marawi City, President Duterte expressed optimism yesterday that willpower and faith would allow the Philippines to overcome its challenges as he called for unity in his message for the Muslim religious holiday Eid’l Fitr.

Duterte said he was hopeful that the “renewed sense of spiritual accomplishment” brought about by the religious event would give Muslims the strength and courage to cultivate their communities.

Vice President Leni Robredo also expressed unity with the Muslim community and offered prayers for the immediate resolution of the crisis in Marawi.

In her message for the observance of Eid’l Fitr, Robredo said she hopes “love will prevail over hate” among Filipinos and that “peace will reign in our country.”

“In times when all odds seem stacked against us, it is our willpower and faith that will always see us through,” Duterte said in the message, which was released as government troops grapple with the threat of Muslim extremists in Marawi.

“Let us channel our energies towards fostering national unity – because dedicating our lives to the betterment of humanity is the best way to demonstrate our devotion to God,” he added.

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Duterte also urged Filipinos to “work towards building a society that is grounded on love, mutual respect and understanding.”

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, a Muslim holy month observed by fasting and prayers. It was declared a national holiday by Republic Act 9177 enacted in 2002. There are more than five million Muslims in the country but the holiday is celebrated nationwide as a symbol of solidarity among all Filipinos regardless of religion.

Duterte said the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal brings great joy to Muslims and “signifies the successful journey towards spiritual purification through a month-long fasting.”

“On this special day, remember to thank Allah for bestowing upon you the resolve, courage and fortitude to obey His commandments during the blessed month of Ramadan,” Duterte, who was in Davao City, said.

“May this special day bring happiness, peace and prosperity to everyone,” he added.

A total of 280 terrorists and 69 government troopers have died since the Islamic State-linked Maute group laid siege in Marawi last May 23, according to the military.

In deference to the observance of the Eid holiday, the military implemented an eight-hour pause in offensives from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday.

Malacañang said the ceasefire was a gesture of solidarity with Muslims.

“This humanitarian ceasefire on part of the military and the government underscores our solidarity with our Muslim brethren as they celebrate the end of Ramadan. It is a sincere gesture which shows respect to the Muslim faith and acknowledges our cultural diversity,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

Abella clarified that the ceasefire did not bar security forces from defending themselves.

Robredo likewise offered prayers for the soldiers and policemen who continue to lay down their lives for the country’s peace.

“To our Muslim brothers and sisters, despite the difficulties you are facing, always remember that while there are people who would like to cause harm on you, there are also others who are willing to sacrifice their lives for you,” she said in Filipino.

Almost the entire population of Marawi, or 246,000 residents, have been displaced since the fighting erupted last month.

Senators also joined the Muslims in celebrating Eid al-Fitr and the call for unity and an end to extremism amid the continuing battle between government troops and Maute militants in Marawi.

Senators Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Leila de Lima, in separate statements, expressed solidarity with Muslims in the country and the rest of the world and greeted them “Eid Mubarak!”

Poe noted that as a consequence of the fighting, thousands of families have left their homes and are in makeshift evacuation centers “trying to conquer the hunger, disease, fear, the heat and cold.”

“After a month of fasting, introspection and quest of faith, let the occasion of Eid al-Fitr serve as symbol of our collective pursuit towards peace and unity, especially in this time when our solidarity as a nation is being put to test with the fighting in Marawi City,” the senator said.

“Let us stand together against the forces that seek to instill fear in us,” she said.

Poe said this is a time for great hope and courage among Filipinos to stand up for one nation “with the guidance of Allah who brings the promise of love and peace.”

Villanueva prayed that nations become stronger and united amid the conflict with fellow Filipinos in Mindanao while De Lima prayed for the immediate end to the conflict.

“This is the time when both our faith and resolve are tested. May this day serve as a reminder for each one of us to truly exemplify a teaching common to all religions – to embrace peace and love,” Villanueva said.

“We also take this opportunity to acknowledge the good-heartedness of Muslims in Marawi City who helped shield their Christian neighbors. This is not the time to see our differences but a chance to look after one another,” he said.

Villanueva called on all Filipinos to pray for peace in Marawi and the rest of Mindanao.

“Peace that would put an end to poverty and usher progress in a land that has long been deprived of the greatness it deserves,” Villanueva said.

De Lima, who is currently detained in Camp Crame, Quezon City on various charges, expressed hope the values of devotion and compassion toward fellow Filipinos would guide leaders and the rest of the people in pursuing a just and lasting peace in the country.

“May the celebration serve as a wellspring of hope for families who have lost their homes and are now huddled in evacuation centers, to our Muslim brothers and sisters who are sick and have no access to food, to their children who stopped schooling, as well as to those who have lost their loved ones,” De Lima said. – With Helen Flores, Paolo Romero

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