It is the end of Ramadan. And I went to my first Eid’l Fit’r celebration. We got up at 4.30 am, arrived at the large grassfield around 6.30, and the mass prayer started around 7.30 am. Four generations of about two thousand people prayed together today.
Women, children, men, families streamed into the carefully marked rows. Rays of the morning sun gave the entire place a welcoming aura. Children in cute bright garbs played beside their mothers. A father and son with matching white gown and cap held hands as they walked to their mats. A a boy sat content cradled between his father’s arms and legs. Their caps too matched. Young women and teen agers in beautiful colored head gowns smiled shyly at me. Young men in white robes and red bandanas paired their look off with jetset sunglasses. A grandmother, mother and daughter sat in a row waiting for the prayer to start.
Behind the playing kids stood soldiers with their
grosskalibrige weapons. Members of the bomb squad patrolled the area. A squard of fully armed police stood chatting about. Pasali staff Renato Mocsin darted about doing his organisational tasks. Christian church members readied their donations of food for after the prayer. Members of the press set up their tripods and lenses.
The young imam calls for repentance and urges his fellows
to ask forgiveness from those they’ve wronged. I heard he’s a recent graduate from an imam school in Libya. “Turn to back to Allah with your entire being,” he urges. “Now is the time to reconcile with those you are not in good terms with.”
The sphere was so relaxed. Never mind the soldiers and the bomb squad. It was relaxed and solemn. Like some kind of quiet mass picnic. It was a wonderful, peaceful and colorful event. Pasali members tell me wealthy families slaughter a goat for the festivity meal. But not many families can afford that. Most will go go home and eat a simple meal of noodles, rice, and beef or fish.
The reality of peace in Mindanao is a far cry from sensational newscasting and conference debates. Its something we cannot be content with merely talking about. Its something we are invited to be part of. Walk into. Experience.