Muslim women in veils run for peaceBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
On the eve of the signing of a landmark peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), some 150 soldiers and Filipino Christians on Sunday joined “happy” Muslim hijabis (women wearing hijabs) in a run aimed at fostering religious understanding.
Dubbed “Hijab Run for Peace: Religious Understanding Now,” the event, organized by the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), was also held in support of the framework agreement expected to be signed by government and MILF representatives today in Malacañang.
“We are happy and grateful to the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and all our partners for working with us in promoting peace and religious understanding,” said Samira Gutoc, chair of the YMPN committee on women and appointed member of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“We believe that the time for peace is now,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Gutoc stressed the importance of respecting religious beliefs in advancing peace efforts and ending the secessionist rebellion in Mindanao.
“Without religious understanding, we cannot have peace. It’s a way of achieving peace, especially for a minority sector like us in a Christian-dominated country,” she said.
“Although we have our own distinct Bangsamoro identity, we are still part of the Filipino nation,” she added.
Respect for beliefs
During the event, Muslim women wore pink hijabs symbolizing their campaign to promote respect for the traditional Muslim outer garment and their religious beliefs.
Citing security reasons, two private schools in Zamboanga City banned the use of the hijab and niqab, a veil that covers the entire head except the eyes, among its students in August.
To show their support, other participants in the fun run wore pink headbands as they ran from the People Power Monument on Edsa and White Plains Avenue in Quezon City to the AFP grandstand in nearby Camp Aguinaldo.
“Today, with our ‘Hijab Run for Peace,’ we made history by supporting both the wearing of hijab as part of our Islamic faith and the signing of the framework agreement to show that we are continuously committed to peace and empowerment of our brothers and sisters in the South,” Bai Rohaniza Sumndad Usman of YMPN said at the closing ceremony.
“We have fought for peace from one generation to another. We moved forward and became proactive to create positive developments toward just and sustainable peace,” she added.
Rear Adm. Miguel Jose Rodriguez, AFP chief for civil-military operations, reiterated the military’s support for the government’s efforts in ending the armed conflict in Mindanao.
“More than any other group, it is the (AFP) which is very interested in winning this peace because it is our soldiers who are being sent to the forefront. We share the suffering, misery and misfortunes in (the armed) conflict,” Rodriguez said in his speech.
“This is a very good opportunity… to send out a message that we should understand… that we, as a nation of diverse people, get our unity and cooperation from our own diversity,” he said.
For his part, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa said the gathering “demonstrated the favorable response to and support of the Muslim community for the signing of the framework agreement… as well as for more understanding and tolerance among every religion in the country.”