A mosque in the Philippines has been rebuilt with the help of soldiers and presented to the public just before Ramadan, offering another glimpse of hope that a long and bloody conflict in the south of the country may come to an end.
As the Philippine government and the country's once largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), continue to build a peace process, the events concerning Tukanalipao Mosque in Mamasapano are the latest reminder of the 45-year long conflict that has resulted in the deaths of more than 120,000 people.
The mosque was badly damaged during a clash in last January in which 44 police commandos, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians were killed. Thousands of people were displaced and began to return home just before Ramadan.
"The construction of the mosque was jointly ventured by the three government agencies of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the 6th Infantry Division and province of Maguindanao who worked day and night in order to finish the project before Ramadan started," Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, chief of the Army's public affairs office, said in a statement emailed to Anadolu Agency on Friday.
Army engineers rebuilt the mosque with the help of locals who also provided security for the soldiers involved in the reconstruction.
Major General Edmundo Pangilinan thanked the whole community in Tukanalipao for their help, saying "it was indeed a very promising day which brought new light to the lives of the people from Tukanalipao. It is hoped that the scars of the wounds created by an unfortunate incident that occurred in the area five months ago will totally be healed so that the people of Tukanalipao can celebrate Ramadan more meaningful and peacefully."
The MILF started to hand over weapons in order to show their commitment to a historic peace agreement last Tuesday, and former fighters took the first steps toward civilian life with the promise of government support. The MILF will surrender thousands of weapons in return for economic, cultural and political autonomy if the peace deal is completed successfully by October.
The Philippines' House of Representatives approved the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) last month, which is also part of the peace deal and will create a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao with greater powers and resources. It will replace the 26 year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new, parliamentary, MILF-led entity.
The Muslims in the town met in the new mosque and prayed for lasting peace in their first Ramadan dawn prayer.
"I’ve advised the people this Ramadan that despite what we’ve heard and seen, we won’t be shut out, because we pray all together to our Almighty Allah that all the things that all the people quarrel about cannot be pursued here," Tukanalipao Mosque imam Saidun Mukadas told Channel Asia News.