‘We can pray in peace’

ABDUL (not his real name) was hesitant at first to talk about his family’s flight from Marawi City.

The 25-year-old grocery owner said whenever he remembers what is happening to his hometown, he feels gloomy.

It has been more than a month since the Maute terrorist group attacked Marawi City, resulting in the deaths of at least 69 soldiers and police and 26 civilians. Fighting has also displaced more than 200,000 people.

“We didn’t expect that it would happen to Marawi. It was so peaceful for a very long time that we didn’t expect that conflict would reach us there,” Abdul told SunStar Cebu.

From being the owner of a medium-sized grocery in Marawi City, Abdul now lives with his wife and two kids in a rented room in Barangay Zapatera. Five other families from Marawi City have also rented rooms, just like his family.

Abdul said he and his family were sad about spending Eid’l Fitr, an important religious holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan, away from their neighborhood.

But they have no choice, Abdul said. They were glad to be alive. “At least,” he said. “We can pray in peace.”

Abdul said he and his family will still celebrate Eid’l Fitr, for which tomorrow has been declared a national holiday, even with the sad experiences they have had in Marawi City.

He also offers prayers to Allah for an end to the conflict and a peaceful return to their homes.

For Muslims permanently living in Cebu, the Marawi crisis is no less painful.

Salim Daham, an ustadz or teacher and businessman based in Cebu City, is afraid that the ongoing war in Marawi might revive prejudice against Muslims.

Mura siya’g mocreate ug domino effect. (It might create a domino effect.) Non-Muslims might think all Muslims are alike,” Daham said. “That is what I worry about.”

But Daham also believes that the conflict in Marawi City is part of the trials Allah has provided as a way to strengthen their faith. Reflecting on the lessons taught during Ramadan, Daham said he still believes that goodness eventually triumphs over evil.

He said he has prayed to Allah to enlighten national government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte, to make the right decisions in the conflict against the Maute.

Ustadz Mohamad Helmie Abemor, imam of the Al-Khariah Mosque in Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City, said that while so many of their brothers and sisters in Marawi City are suffering, he and other Muslims in Cebu will continue to provide help. The Al-Khariah Mosque is accepting relief assistance for those who remain in Marawi City.

Abemor said that the relief drive was also their way of observing charity, which is one of the pillars of Islam.
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