MATANOG, Maguindanao, Philippines?Philippine Army soldiers and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fasted together here during the "Duyog Ramadan" activities inside the guerrilla's main base, Camp Abubakar, here on Saturday.
Colonel Ernesto Aradanas, commander of the 603rd Brigade, and his Muslim military subordinates under Major Taharudin Ampatuan joined MILF members in starting the fast.
The two military officers and other officials said fasting together provided a friendly atmosphere to the gathering, which was attended by around 60 MILF guerrillas representing 36 units and about 30 government soldiers.
The rebels have agreed to support a localized peace program called "Project Salaam."
Peace volunteers among Catholic parishioners pioneered the concept of Duyog Ramadan, which means fasting along or together on Ramadan, as a peace-bridging endeavor for followers of different religions.
It was elevated to national awareness in 1981 with the help of a Duyog Ramadan concert, featuring the native kulintang ensemble formed by Asin's leader, the late Cesar "Saro" Bañares, a native of Koronadal, South Cotabato.
"(We have undertaken) public engagement operations through sustained and focused dialogue and negotiation directed towards the community-based armed groups, either members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or affiliated with other armed group," Aradanas said.
He said among those embracing the military's community peace and development projects were 66 members of the MILF National Guard Division under Hadji Samier Hashim, brother of the late MILF chairman, Ustadz Salamat Hashim.
The MILF has agreed to resume talks with the government but some of its commanders are still involved in attacks against the military.
The clashes involving the so-called "rogue MILF commanders" have resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people, including non-combattants, since August last year.