09/16/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Ramadan provides an opportunity for Christian-Muslin friendship

by Santosh Digal
A Muslim freelance writer from Mindanao talks about her experience of daily friendship with Christians. Mutual knowledge and respect are a possible way for harmony between the two faiths.
Manila (AsiaNews) – “Fasting [during Ramadan], I discovered, was a way to strengthen friendships with my Christian” colleagues, said Samira Gutoc, a freelance writer and convenor of the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), an NGO actively involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue for peace. For her, the essence of Ramadan becomes real in the smiles Christians and Muslims exchange every day.

She met Christians for the first time when she was studying at the University of Philippines in Manila. At Ramadan, she formed a close friendship with some young Christian women attending the same institution. In that first year, her Christian roommates helped her get up at three in the morning to have breakfast. She said she was moved by their “respect.”

The relationship continued over the years and now her friends and work colleagues help her by not eating in front of her, even fasting sometimes with her for several hours, showing their friendship and solidarity. For her, this is an example of how harmony can exist between the two faiths.

“Having worked and interacted with Christians all my life, I have had to actually be a 'better Muslim' to answer questions from colleagues about my faith,” Samira said.

She hails from Mindanao, a predominantly Muslim region, scene of a 40-year-old conflict between the Filipino military and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Confrontation between the two warring parties has affected millions of people of all religions. In just the last two years, more than 750,000 people have become refugees.

Despite this, the Catholic Church and Muslim organisations have maintained a dialogue in venues like the Bishops-Ulama Forum or the YMPN.

About 290 meetings have been held in the last six months, with representatives from both religions discussing ways to find a solution to the conflict.

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