03/19/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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New peace efforts for Muhammad’s birthday and Holy Week

by Santosh Digal
Today, a few days short of Easter Sunday, Muslims celebrate the birth of their prophet. In Mindanao religious leaders are convinced that this coincidence is an extremely positive event, using it to express their commitment to peace in the area.

Cotabato City (AsiaNews) – Leaders from Mindanao’s Christian and Muslim communities have decided to strengthen their peace efforts as Muhammad’s birthday falls during Holy Week.Today’s commemoration of the Muslim prophet’s birthday is “eye opener” for Muslims and Christians alike since it shows that both aspire to peace and development.

“I consider this year’s commemoration of the Maulidin Nabi or the birth of Prophet Mohammad, during what is Holy Week for Christians, as a good omen and an indication that we in Mindanao are for peaceful days ahead,” said Cotabato City Mayor Muslimen Sema, secretary-general of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Sema said he vividly recalled how, at the height of the MNLF’s uprising during the 1970s, Christian friends gave him sanctuary, supplied him and other guerrillas with food and water. Whilst this cannot be forgotten, now he added, everyone must work for an end of this absurd and unjust violence. Both religions teach peace, a lesson that everyone should remember.

For the past 40 years the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim separatist rebel, has been battling the Filipino army.

The al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf also has training camps in some of the more remote areas of the region.

But whether broadly political or more narrowly confessional, clashes between these rebel groups and Filipino forces have caused the death of thousands of people.

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