FFE Magazine

Muslims surprise Zamboanga Catholics

by FEE PH News Staff



When it came to rebuilding after the Zamboanga siege, religious differences don’t seem like a huge issue.


A number of Muslim residents of Zamboanga volunteered to rebuild a Catholic Chapel in Santa Catalina district after it was shelled and razed. The chapel was one of many structures that were damaged in September by the three-week siege between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front, founded by Nur Misuari.


Santa Catalina barangay captain Jimmy Villaflores said ‘We thought they were just looking for damaged mosques to rebuild.’ But to the surprise of the predominantly Christian community, the Muslims, who just came back recently from abroad, announced that they planned to rebuild the Christ the King Chapel. Before the community had any say on the matter, the Muslims went to work.


Villaflores added ‘We have not heard of any Muslim helping build a chapel before.’ Only the back wall and the altar were left standing after the siege.  The 100-year-old icon, a wooden image of Christ the King, was unfortunately destroyed by the fire.


The barangay captain said ‘We are very happy about it. Santa Catalina residents are deeply touched by their efforts. We really appreciate how our Muslim brothers and sisters are helping us.


‘Barely a month since the work began our chapel is about 90%completed already.’


Christ the King Chapel in Zamboanga

Christ the King Chapel in Zamboanga


Father Michael Ufana of the Saint Joseph Parish praised the help the Muslims offered to the community. It did not only mean the speedy rebuilding of the chapel. The gesture also strengthened the relationship between the Muslims and Christians in the community. Father Ufana admitted that, like other Christians in the area, he somewhat disliked the Muslims.


But that all changed, he said ‘The way other Muslims painstakingly reached somehow eased this.’


The people behind the rebuilding of Christ the King Chapel call themselves ‘Esperanza’, which means hope. They are composed of retired police officers and other Muslim professionals who raise funds for a cause. Retired police chief superintendent Sukarno Ikbala said that Esperanza stood for ‘Environmental, Socio-Psychological, Economic and Religious Advancement of Neo-Zamboangaenos’ Aspirations.’


Esperanza was formed after retired senior superintendent Julmunier Jubail called on Muslims to help bring relief and rebuild their city. The group was able to raise Php120,000 with the help of the Asia Foundation and fellow Muslim Abdurahman Nuno. This some is what they are using to fund the rebuilding of Christ the King Chapel.


Ikbala proudly added ‘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.’ Jubail added that he called for the formation of the group because ‘I did not want the general Christian community to look down on us as bad people because we were all victims.’


Rey Zaragosa, a 67-year-old resident of Santa Catalina, could only say ‘Not all Muslims are bad and not all Christians are good. The rebuilding of our chapel by the Muslims is indication enough that they were not bad and they want to lift our spirits and our hope [for peace].’


Zaragosa said he was looking forward to the opening of the chapel in time for the Christmas eve mass or Misa de Gallo.





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