Military's mosque rehabilitation program launched

Soldiers and clerics help each other paint a mosque as symbolic launching of the “Brigada Masjid” in Zamboanga City early this week. Photo courtesy of Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, Westmincom

Military's mosque rehabilitation program launched
John Unson ( - May 20, 2017 - 9:50am

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Peace activists on Saturday pledged support to the “Brigada Masjid” program the military launched this week in support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Southern Mindanao peace process.

The term Masjid means Islamic worship site in Arabic language.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said on Saturday he was elated with the launching early this week in Zamboanga City by Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) of the Brigada Masjid, the first ever in the country.

Mangudadatu, presiding chairman of the inter-agency, multi-sectoral Maguindanao provincial peace and order council, is a staunch supporter of Malacañang’s peace overture with Southern Moro communities.

As Westmincom commander, Galvez has tactical and administrative jurisdiction over the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, whose units are securing all of Maguindanao’s 36 towns.

Maguindanao and nearby provinces are covered by the interim ceasefire accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“We will support the Brigada Masjid program. It’s a laudable initiative deserving support from the Maguindanao provincial government and all of its constituent-municipal governments,” Mangudadatu said.

Galvez on Saturday told The STAR the Brigada Masjid shall cascade down the far-flung areas through Army divisions under the Westmincom and other units of the Armed Forces attached to it.

“This is to recognize and give credit to the role of Islamic preachers in interfaith peace-building activities in Mindanao,” Galvez said.

The program shall focus on rehabilitation and beautification of mosques by soldiers in far-flung areas within areas covered by Westmincom.

“If we can have the `Brigada Eskwela,’ we can also have the Brigada Masjid in support of efforts to foster religious solidarity among Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and Lumad sectors,” Galvez said.

The Brigada Eskwela, also known as “Bayanihan Para sa Paaralan,” is a nationwide voluntary effort of teachers, parents, students and barangay residents in cleaning and beautifying classrooms and campuses before the yearly June opening of classes.

There are also foreign donor agencies and international humanitarian outfits funding pro-poor and community-empowerment projects in the south helping push the Brigada Eskwela forward.

Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said on Saturday his administration will also help the Westmincom implement its Brigada Masjid program.

“Anything good for the peace process is good for the Moro people in Mindanao and in all of the five provinces of ARMM,” Hataman said.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The Hataman administration has markedly been active in promoting co-existence among Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the autonomous region.

Hataman said he is certain Westmincom’s Brigada Masjid can boost the government’s continuing effort to stop the spread of fanatically misguided religious extremists in potential conflict flashpoint areas.

Hataman said there are agencies in the ARMM government that can extend manpower and technical support to Army units out to implement the Brigada Masjid.

The vice governor of Lanao del Sur, Mamintal Adiong Jr., also a supporter of Malacañang’s effort to put diplomatic closure to the decades-old  Mindanao Moro problem, said his office is also ready to help in the Brigada Masjid program of Galvez.

Adiong said the launching of the Brigada Masjid is timely owing to its proximity to the start of the Islamic Ramadan fasting season next week.

Clerics will start watching next week for the rise of the new moon to mark the start of the Ramadan, a holy month in Islam.

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle, about 28 to 29 days during the Ramadan, as a religious obligation and as reparation for wrongdoings.

Fasting during the Ramadan is also meant to inculcate on Muslims the value of self-restraint in achieving spiritual perfection.

The Ramadan also ends with the sighting of the new moon, the basis for the celebration of the Eid'l Fitr, or culmination of the month-long obligatory fasting for physically fit Muslims.

Children, lactating mothers, menstruating women, the sick and elderly are exempted from fasting during the season.

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