Filipino Muslims Rebuild Church
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) To the surprise of Christian residents in Zamboanga city in Santa Catalina district, their Muslim neighbors have been championing efforts to rebuild a catholic church, carrying carpenters tools, sawing lumber and driving in nails to rebuild the chapel.
“We thought they were just looking for damaged mosques to rebuild,” Jimmy Villaflores, Santa Catalina barangay (village) head, told Inquirer Mindanao on Saturday, December 14.
“We have not heard of any Muslim helping build a chapel before,” Villaflores said.
Last month, Zamboanga Muslim residents, who returned home from abroad recently, announced they had come to Santa Catalina to rebuild the Christ the King chapel.
The chapel, build on the early 1980’s, was destroyed in fire in a recent standoff between the government and members of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) last September.
When the fighting ended, only the chapel’s back wall and altar were left.
But before the Christians could say anything to the Muslims, they went to work, sawing lumber, driving in nails and doing other things to rebuild the chapel.
“We are very happy about it. Santa Catalina residents are deeply touched by their efforts,” Villaflores said.
“We really appreciate how our Muslim brothers and sisters are helping us.”
He said that the help extended by Zamboanga’s Muslim residents has hastened the rebuilding of the chapel.
“Barely a month since the work began our chapel is about 90 percent completed already,” he said.
Father Michael Ufana of the Saint Joseph parish said he was overwhelmed by what the Muslims had shown, saying their efforts have strengthened interfaith connections in the city.
“The way other Muslims painstakingly reached somehow eased this,” he said.
The church rebuilding efforts were the result of cooperation between retired police Chief Superintendent Sukarno Ikbala and several other Muslim professionals who formed a group they called “Esperanza” (Hope).
“Esperanza stands for Environmental, Socio-Psychological, Economic, and Religious Advancement of Neo-Zamboangaenos’ Aspirations,” he said.
Ikbala said he was listening to a live-streaming radio broadcast in the United States one day when he heard a fellow retiree, Senior Supt. Julmunier Jubail, rallying Muslims to help in the rebuilding and relief efforts in the city.
Ikbala said he immediately came home, met with Jubail, retired Senior Supt. Bensali Jabarani and coordinated their efforts to rebuild the church.
After that meeting, they raised P120,000 from the Asia Foundation and from fellow Muslim Abdurahman Nuno.
“We are also using our own resources. We give whatever we have in our pockets, and in due time we can complete the roofing of the chapel,” Ikbala proudly announced.
“I did not want the general Christian community to look down on us as bad people because we were all victims,” he said.
“We do hope that in our own small ways of reaching out, something beautiful will come out.”
Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in largely Catholic Philippines.
The mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao, Islam’s birthplace in the Philippines, is home to 5 million Muslims.