By Francis Wakefield
About a hundred people joined an interfaith dinner hosted by the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) at Daza Park Pavillion in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Tuesday.
The activity which started at 5 in the afternoon was attended by different religious organizations, government agencies and other groups that are all working for peace and are fighting violent extremism.
Director Kim Edres, of the NCMF spearheaded the gathering in partnership with the Multi-Sectoral Advisory and Action Group (MCAAG) of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region, which serves as the guide of the Command towards good governance and performance excellence.
One of the sponsors of the Iftar and Interfaith Dinner is the Integrated Center for Development (ICAD) Foundation, a Fil-Turkish Group that promotes peace and understanding in communities.
Last year, ICAD Foundation also donated cows to internally displaced families located in different evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur as a result of the Marawi Siege.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito G Galvez, Jr., was the Guest of Honor and Speaker during the activity.
“I took the time to come and attend this fellowship despite series of activities I had earlier today, because this is very important to me. I am happy to be here because i can sense that there is harmony, there is respect, there is understanding and there is love,” Galvez said.
“Tonight is a wonderful opportunity for us to come together, to chat and to share stories as we celebrate our differences,” Galvez added.
In his speech, Galvez also shared his experiences in Mindanao and as to how he witnessed people suffering due to the decades of conflict.
“Being a soldier, sometimes you need to use force but in my years of experience, i believe that it is only through understanding that we can achieve respect, it is only through understanding that we can achieve trust, and it is only through understanding that we can love each other,” Galvez said.
He also pledge to devote his time and attention in bringing peace in Mindanao,even as he made mention of ensuring that changes are underway to ensure that the rehabilitation in Marawi will be successful.
“I will bring back very good military officers in Marawi who have hearts for the Maranaos,” Galvez said.
Brigadier General Alan R. Arojado, the Commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR), said they are fortunate because the NCMF-NCR chose to partner with the MSAAG of the JTF-NCR, AFP in conducting the Iftar and Interfaith Dinner.
“We hope that through this activity, we will be able to strengthen our relationship and partnership with key leaders from various faith-based groups, community leaders and Muslim Diplomatic Community in NCR. With this, I wish our Muslim brothers a ‘Happy Ramadan’,” Arojado said.
Earlier during the program, a guest lecturer from the University of the Philippines (UP) Mr. Mehmet Unal, gave a lecture on the significance of Ramadhan followed by giving of messages of support coming from representatives of the different religious groups.
“We have to bring ourselves together, we have to accept each other..,” said Amina Rasul, the President of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy.
Rasul mentioned about promoting a pluralistic society. She said that it is not only about accepting other people but to really understand one another and accepting each one as a fellow member of one big community.
One of the members of the MSAAG-NCR, Msgr. Hernando Coronel also said, ”our church renews its commitment in working towards peace… We continue to build trust and mutual respect with our brother Muslims.”
The activity which is only the second of its kind, only started last year as part of the strategic plans and programs of the MSAAG-NCR.
“On behalf of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, i thank you for making the AFP a part of this celebration. We will always be ready to support and participate in peace endeavors such as this,” Galvez said.