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MANILA: Filipino Muslims called for global peace on Monday to mark the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, as they highlighted Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. 

Muslims make up around 10 percent of the Philippines’ nearly 120 million predominantly Catholic population, according to data from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. 

With the sighting of the new crescent moon in Saudi Arabia on Sunday night, the Kingdom marked the first day of Ramadan on Monday, along with multiple Gulf nations, like Qatar and the UAE. But the holy month will begin on Tuesday for countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Oman, where officials failed to see the crescent moon.

As Muslims across the world welcome Ramadan, Palestinians are starting the fasting month with at least 1.7 million people displaced and more than 31,000 killed since Israel began its relentless attack on the Gaza Strip in October. 

“I’m calling for sobriety and unity (in the Philippines) … I also want to make use of the mercy of this blessed month of Ramadan to call for global peace, especially with the situation now in Palestine,” NCMF spokesperson Yusoph Mando told Arab News. 

“Muslims and non-Muslims alike must come together to share love, mercy and compassion especially during this month of mercy, Ramadan,” Mando said. “My hopes for Palestine (in) this holy month are peace and security and normal life like every one of us.” 

Nearly 2 billion of the world’s population professing Islam will fast from sunrise to sunset each day during the holy month of Ramadan, a sacred time that marks a period of religious reflection, family get-togethers and giving across the Muslim world. 

But this year, Ramadan comes as an estimated 300,000 Palestinians are living with little food or clean water, while children are dying of starvation in northern Gaza, according to the World Health Organization. 

“We share the call for peace in Palestine, especially during this time of Ramadan,” Murad Ebrahim, chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told Arab News. 

“We always pray to Allah that our brothers and sisters in Palestine will enjoy, especially this month of Ramadan, peace and tranquility in their homeland, that all the bombings will stop.”

Samira Gutoc, a peace activist from Marawi City, said “there can never be a justification” for children and women to be “sacrificial lambs” to Israel’s relentless attack on the Gaza Strip, which has also targeted public welfare facilities, including hospitals and shelters. 

“Palestine is a shared struggle with us Bangsamoro people; there are so many kinships in terms of history, right to self-determination, struggle — the Palestinians and the Moros of the south,” Gutoc told Arab News. 

Bangsamoro is the only Muslim-majority territory in the Philippines covering central Mindanao. It was, until 2014, at the heart of a four-decades-long separatist struggle, with BARMM formed in 2019 as part of the region’s transition to autonomy. 

“So yes, we are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza … We need to show the Philippines that we are not sleeping or closing our eyes … So why not the Philippines show the same goodwill, show the same solidarity, all the more during Ramadan, at least from us Muslims in the south.” 

Drieza Liningding, a peace activist from Mindanao, is also wishing for a free Palestine this Ramadan. 

“I share the hope for global peace, especially in Gaza, in this most sacred month for us Muslims,” Liningding told Arab News. “With what is happening now, people are starving, (have) no shelter and (are suffering from) diseases. I feel sorry for them. For me, Ramadan is not complete because of the situation in Gaza.” 

He is calling on Filipinos to continue educating and organizing protests to raise awareness on Palestine. 

“We can continue to push and pressure our governments to support (a) ceasefire and unhindered entry of aid in Gaza.”