Solidarity iftars foster bonds of togetherness for Filipino Muslims and Catholics

Throughout Ramadan, Filipinos get together for the solidarity iftars known as Duyog Ramadan. (Supplied)
Throughout Ramadan, Filipinos get together for the solidarity iftars known as Duyog Ramadan. (Supplied)
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Updated 31 March 2024
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Solidarity iftars foster bonds of togetherness for Filipino Muslims and Catholics

Throughout Ramadan, Filipinos get together for the solidarity iftars known as Duyog Ramadan. (Supplied)
  • Duyog Ramadan started in the 1970s in Mindanao
  • Duyog is a Cebuano word that means ‘to accompany’

Manila: When Ramadan begins in the Philippines, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar turns into a time for Filipinos of different faiths to come together. 

Around 80 percent of the Philippines’ more than 110 million people are Roman Catholics, whereas Muslims make up about 10 percent of the population. 

Throughout Ramadan, which began on March 12 this year, Filipinos get together for the solidarity iftars known as Duyog Ramadan. The tradition first started in the 1970s in Mindanao, where Christian churches — a minority in the predominantly Muslim region — sponsored meals for Muslim communities to break their fast. This practice has since been adopted by various groups in the Philippines. 

FASTFACTS

• The tradition of Duyog Ramadan began in the 1970s in Mindanao.

• Duyog is a Cebuano word that means ‘to accompany.’

• Interfaith organizations hope to embody the spirit of Ramadan to promote love and peace.

The Moro-Christian People’s Alliance held one such event with the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila in mid-March, aiming to build a deeper connection between Muslims and Christians. 

The MCPA said Duyog Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to share with the Catholic community their challenges, as they struggle with a lack of social services and face racism and exploitation from landowners and authorities. 

“(Christians) can help to highlight these issues and combat chauvinism and prejudice against Muslims,” MCPA Secretary-General Amirah Ali Lidasan told Arab News.

“We believe that Muslim-Christian interaction should not be limited to religious narratives. It should also address difficulties that Muslims and Christians experience in similar ways, such as human rights violations, poverty, landlessness, migration, and others.”

As some Muslim communities often feel unheard, Lidasan believes solidarity from other communities can help amplify their voices. 

“This is where the Christian religious community can help amplify the victims’ voices, which is why we invite them to attend our events, particularly during Ramadan, to listen to the voices on the ground. We also learn from our fellow Christian religious communities about how they face similar violations and fight for their rights,” she said. 

The interfaith solidarity events take on a deeper meaning this year after Daesh militants targeted a Catholic Mass in the southern Philippine city of Marawi last December in a bombing that killed at least four people and injured 50 others. 

Edwin de la Pena, the bishop of Marawi, has urged Filipino Catholics to accompany Muslims in their efforts to fast, pray and build peace in their community for this year’s Duyog Ramadan movement. Duyog is a Cebuano word that means “to accompany.”

The bishop has also encouraged his fellow priests to “seek your homilies during Ramadan and think about possibilities for communal action to promote the common good, care for the earth, and build peace through dialogue of life and faith.”

Other interfaith organizations, such as the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, hope to embody the spirit of Ramadan to promote love and peace. 

“In this critical time of history, with calamities, climate change, and signs of world war, we have to be united in the spirit of the month of Ramadan to reflect on what we can do together to promote love in all its aspects,” said Silsilah, a non-governmental organization of Muslims and Christians. 

“The concept of dialogue as an expression of love is what we try to live and share in many ways, and we see that the spirit of Ramadan is a journey in this direction. Thus, while all religions have specific ways to fast, pray and do acts of charity, we need to be united in the central point of spirituality, which is love.” 


Ancient New Year celebration caps long Eid holidays in Bangladesh

Ancient New Year celebration caps long Eid holidays in Bangladesh
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Ancient New Year celebration caps long Eid holidays in Bangladesh

Ancient New Year celebration caps long Eid holidays in Bangladesh
  • New Year’s parade in Dhaka was added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list in 2016
  • Festive procession was first organized as protest against military rule by college students

DHAKA: Thousands of Bangladeshis crowded the streets of Dhaka on Sunday to welcome the Bengali New Year in a festive and colorful celebration reconnecting them with their traditional heritage.

In the capital, people were clad in traditional attire with many dressed in red as they marched and danced in a procession that started at a prominent arts college on the Dhaka University campus.

The parade, called Mangal Shobhajatra, was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage in 2016 by UNESCO.

“This Bengali New Year celebration is part and parcel of our culture,” said Arafat Rahman, a student at Dhaka University.

“This is the only festival in our culture where people from all walks of life join together irrespective of class, caste, and religion. With these celebrations, we welcome the new year with a hope of prosperity for the next year and wish for the well-being of the countrymen.”

Rahman, who is a third-year arts student and has participated in the rally since he enrolled in Dhaka University, said the elaborate and colorful masks used in the procession are picked from Bangladesh’s folk cultures, while the choice of animal figures is linked to the lives of farmers and people in rural areas.

“To many extents, through this procession, people reconnect themselves with the origin and nature of this land,” he said.

Bangladeshis were clad in traditional attire, with many dressed in red, as they marched with colorful masks in Dhaka on April 14, 2024. (AN Photo) 

For Mily Khan, a 37-year-old resident of Dhaka, the New Year parade is a reminder of Bangladesh’s heritage.

“Every year, the celebration style remains the same, but it reignites the spirit of Bengali culture among the minds of the people. This celebration is something we need to nurture most as it is part of our roots, and this is our identity as a Bengali-speaking nation,” Khan said.

“Nowadays, our life has become more automated and urban. We can’t manage time to visit the homes in the villages. But the Mangal Shobhajatra rally, fairs, welcoming the new year with dance and songs, all these components together remind us of the origin of our culture.”

Sunday was a national holiday in Bangladesh. This year, the Bengali New Year — known locally as Pohela Boishakh — took place right after the Eid Al-Fitr holidays, with various celebrations taking place across the country of 170 million people.

The Bengali calendar emerged under the 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar, who combined Islamic and solar Hindu calendars to facilitate tax collection.

The New Year celebrations in Bangladesh have also been a medium of protest “against all sorts of irregularities and oppression in society,” especially in recent years, said Prof. Muntasir Mamun, a renowned Bangladeshi historian.

“This Mangal Shobhajatra was first organized (in 1989) as a protest against the then military ruler of the country. Mangal Shobhajatra is the only secular festival in the world that originated as a tool of protest, and to date, it holds the same spirit,” Mamun told Arab News.

“It’s a rally of festivity, joy, and protest also. The fine arts department (at Dhaka University) always organizes the rally without any corporate sponsor. They do it with people’s participation and by the little contributions from the public,” he said.

“This approach made the Mangal Shobhajatra a platform for all the people of the country … It’s a platform where people from all walks of life join together, wishing for a peaceful society.”


Sydney mall attacker identified, ‘nothing’ to suggest terror motive

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
Updated 14 April 2024
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Sydney mall attacker identified, ‘nothing’ to suggest terror motive

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
  • The assailant — who was shot dead by a senior police officer at the scene on Saturday — was Queensland man Joel Cauchi

SYDNEY: Australian police on Sunday said a 40-year-old itinerant with mental illness was behind a Sydney shopping center stabbing rampage that killed six people, including a new mum whose nine-month-old baby is still in hospital with serious wounds.

New South Wales police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said the assailant — who was shot dead by a senior police officer at the scene on Saturday — was Queensland man Joel Cauchi.

Five women and one male security guard were killed in the attack as Cauchi roved through a packed shopping center in the city’s Bondi Junction neighborhood with a large knife. Twelve more people are still in hospital.

“The sound of people screaming was horrific,” said eyewitness Daphi Kiselstein, who was shopping at the time of the attack and took refuge in a store with other terrified people.

Cooke said there was no evidence to suggest Cauchi was “driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise.”

“We know that the offender in the matter suffered from, suffers from, mental health,” he added.

Cauchi was tracked down and shot dead by solo senior police officer Amy Scott, who was instantly hailed by Australia’s prime minister as a “hero” who had saved countless lives.

Cauchi’s parents said their son had been living in a vehicle and hostels of late, and was only in sporadic contact via text messages.

Police said he was diagnosed with a mental health issue at age 17, but they had no indication about why he may have become violent.

His parents issued a statement through police offering condolences to their son’s victims and their families.

They had also sent a message of “support” to the officer who shot him dead, “expressing their concerns for her welfare.”

Queensland police said Cauchi had been in contact with police several times over the last four to five years but has never been arrested or charged with any offense.

He is believed to have traveled to Sydney about a month ago and hired a small storage unit in the city. It contained personal belongings, including a boogie board.

The attack has caused sorrow, outrage and shock in Sydney, where residents are relatively unaccustomed to violent crime.

The shopping center is the focal point of a well frequented suburb near the famed beach, and is always filled with shoppers and families going for meals or to the cinema.

Among the victims was 38-year-old mother Ashlee Good, who succumbed to her injuries after desperately passing her baby to two strangers in the hope they could save the child’s life.

Good’s family described her as “a beautiful mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend, all round outstanding human and so much more.”

“To the two men who held and cared for our baby when Ashlee could not — words cannot express our gratitude,” they said in a statement to Australian media.

The baby, named Harriet, was said to be recovering well after lengthy surgery.

Two of the victims are said to have no family in Australia and attempts are being made to contact relatives overseas.

A Facebook profile said Cauchi came from Toowoomba, near Brisbane, and had attended a local high school and university.

A distinctive grey, red and yellow dragon tattoo on his right arm was used to help identify him.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australians were struggling to understand an “unspeakable” attack that is “really just beyond comprehension.”

“People going about their Saturday afternoon shopping should be safe, shouldn’t be at risk. But tragically, we saw a loss of life, and people will be grieving for loved ones today,” he said.

“We also know there are many people still in hospital dealing with recovery, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Albanese said he had received messages from US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon among others.

Outside the shopping center early on Sunday, a collection of flowers started to build.

Families embraced as they lay flowers. One man stood silently and wiped away tears, before moving on.

Sydney resident Paul Hoolahan said he came to pay his respects to those who died at the shopping center, where he often has coffee with his grandchildren.

“It is emotional,” Hoolahan told AFP. “It shouldn’t happen. It hit here,” he said pointing to his chest.

New South Wales premier Chris Minns flew back from Japan on news of the attack.

He said it had been “incredible to see complete strangers jump in, run toward the danger for their own lives in harm’s way to save someone that they’ve never met before.”

“We’ve got some wonderful people in our city,” he said.


Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China

Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China
Updated 14 April 2024
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Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China

Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China

BEIJING: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in China on Sunday, kicking off a trip in which he faces a tough balancing act as he aims to shore up economic ties with Berlin’s biggest trading partner.
Scholz touched down in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing on Sunday morning, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said, accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and business executives.
As Western allies are cranking up pressure on Beijing, Scholz is expected to underline that Germany remains committed to doing business with the world’s second-largest economy and rejects US-led calls for “decoupling.”
His friendly overtures toward China risk sparking ire among Washington and EU partners, which have been pushing back against Beijing’s heavy subsidies for industries.
“China remains a really important economic partner,” Scholz told journalists on Friday, adding that he would try to level the playing field for German companies in China.
On the geopolitical front, Scholz will also use his visit to persuade Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert his influence to rein in his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and help bring an end to the war in Ukraine.
“Given the close relations between China and Russia, Beijing has the possibility to exert its influence on Russia,” said a German government source in Berlin.
The three-day tour through Chongqing, Shanghai and Beijing is Scholz’s second trip to China since he took office.
His first in November 2022 took place under intense scrutiny, as it came swiftly after Xi strengthened his grip on power, and marked the first post-pandemic visit by a G7 leader to China.
Stung then by painful supply chain disruptions during the health crisis as well as by China’s refusal to distance itself from Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Western allies had been scrambling to reduce their reliance on Beijing.

Scholz’s visit comes as many of Germany’s Western allies confront China on a range of trade issues.
A slew of probes into state aid for Chinese solar panels, electric cars and wind turbines are ongoing in Brussels.
The United States is meanwhile investigating national security risks posed by Chinese technology in cars.
With tensions rumbling over Taiwan, US President Joe Biden this week made defense pledges to Japan and the Philippines, while describing behavior by Beijing in the South China Sea as “dangerous and aggressive.”
Two days before his visit, Scholz held talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, whose office said the leaders “coordinated to defend a rebalancing of European-Chinese trade relations.”
But China is a vital market for Germany, where many jobs depend directly on demand from the Asian giant.
Both economies also badly need a boost.
The German economy shrank by 0.3 percent last year, battered by inflation, high interest rates and cooling exports, and for this year, the economy ministry expects just an anaemic growth of 0.2 percent.
Beijing has set an annual GDP growth target of around five percent for this year, but exports plunged more than expected last month.
German MPs and analysts urged Scholz to take a firm line.
The Green party’s Deborah Duering warned Scholz against viewing China just as an economic opportunity.
“Those who ignore long-term risks for short-term profits risk repeating the mistakes of the past, misguided Russia policy,” said Duering, in reference to past dependency on Moscow for cheap energy supplies.
Max Zenglein of the Mercator Institute for China Studies said Germany should not hesitate to be more assertive.
“As countries such as the USA and Japan are positioning themselves much more sharply against China, Germany has an important role to play,” he said, adding that Germany was “in a position of strength.”
 


Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat

Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat
Updated 14 April 2024
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Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat

Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat
  • Surveys overwhelmingly show that Britons want an end to 14 years of Tory rule, and nothing that Sunak has done since he became PM 18 months ago appears to be changing their minds

LONDON: He’s failed to meet key pledges, hit an opinion poll low, and even cramped the style of a popular Adidas shoe: Britain’s beleaguered Conservative leader Rishi Sunak appears destined to lose a looming general election.
Two tax cuts and a slightly improving economy have failed to boost Sunak’s political fortunes, while criticism from ex-prime minister Boris Johnson and speculation over Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage’s intentions are adding to his woes.
Political scientist Rob Ford reckoned Sunak has been left looking “hapless” in the face of seemingly unstoppable political momentum away from his ruling Tories.
“When the herd moves, it moves. There’s not much you can do,” he told AFP.
Sunak, 43, has yet to announce the date of the election. He is expected to call it for October or November but is legally allowed to wait until January at the latest.
Surveys overwhelmingly show that Britons want an end to 14 years of Tory rule, and nothing that Sunak has done since he became PM 18 months ago appears to be changing their minds.
A YouGov poll released this month found that the Conservatives would win just 155 seats in the UK parliament, down from the 365 that they won under Johnson at the last election in December 2019.
Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party would win 403 seats, the same survey found, leading to a whopping 154-seat majority.
“Right now, it’s very difficult to see how the Conservatives remain in government after the next election simply because of the scale of shift they need,” said Keiran Pedley, director of politics at polling firm Ipsos.
Sunak succeeded Liz Truss in October 2022 after Tory MPs forced her out following a disastrous 49 days in office, during which her mini-budget spooked financial markets, sank the pound and sent mortgage payments skywards.
She had followed Johnson, who himself had been defenestrated by colleagues following a series of scandals, including over illegal parties in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns.
While the turmoil of the two previous administrations has hamstrung Sunak, political analysts say he has also contributed to his own plight by falling short on promises and failing to connect with voters.
Despite promising to, he has not stopped migrants arriving from France on small boats. National Health Service waiting lists are higher than when he took office. Economic growth is stagnant, although inflation has more than halved.
Sunak has also tried a number of leadership and policy resets that have fallen flat, including watering down carbon net zero commitments in a pitch to motorists and recently talking about extremism.
The rightward tilt comes as the fringe Reform UK party threatens to deprive the Conservatives of key seats, particularly if Farage stands for them as he has teased.
“(Sunak has) been trying to find this magic wand or silver bullet to turn things around but at the moment none of it seems to be moving the dial,” Pedley told AFP.
An Ipsos poll published in March found that 58 percent of voters view the Conservatives unfavorably, the highest percentage this parliament. Only 19 percent view them favorably.
The survey gave Sunak a net favorability rating of minus 38, the lowest of any politician included.
Critics often accuse the wealthy ex-financier of being out of touch with average Britons.
“He is a combination of being rather awkward and nerdy, and then if challenged he always sounds really irritable,” Ford, politics professor at Manchester University, said.
Sunak is striving to revive his party’s fortunes, traversing the country to meet voters as rumors swirl that a disastrous showing in local elections on May 2 could spark a leadership challenge.
He can’t seem to catch a break, though.
This week, Johnson slammed Sunak’s proposed comprehensive smoking ban as “nuts,” while Sunak’s spokesperson had to deny that the PM was preparing to run an AI fund in the event of election defeat.
Sunak even offered a “fulsome apology to the Samba community” after photographs of him wearing the Adidas trainers sparked headlines like: “Eight trainers to wear now that Rishi has killed Sambas.”
“There’s a kind of a doom loop that politicians can get into where they’re unpopular,” explained Ford.
“The media know they’re unpopular so everything they do is reported negatively, which further reinforces their unpopularity.”
Political observers say polls usually narrow as voting day nears and suspect liberal Conservatives might ultimately stick with the party to reduce the size of a Labour win and ensure the Tories are an effective opposition.
“Everything at this point really is becoming about damage limitation,” said Ford.


Trump says Iran attack on Israel shows US ‘weakness’ under Biden

Former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden during. (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden during. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2024
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Trump says Iran attack on Israel shows US ‘weakness’ under Biden

Former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden during. (AFP)

SCHNECKSVILLE, United States: Donald Trump on Saturday blasted President Joe Biden over Iran’s major attack on Israel, alleging that his rival in November elections showed American “weakness” in the Middle East.
“God bless the people of Israel. They are under attack right now. That’s because we show great weakness,” he said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
Iran launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel Saturday evening, after pledging retaliation for a strike on its consular building in Syria that killed seven Revolutionary Guards members, two of them generals.
Trump, who while in office ordered the killing of a top Revolutionary Guard leader in Baghdad and withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear accord, has repeatedly accused his Democratic opponent of a soft approach toward Tehran.
“The weakness that we’ve shown, it’s unbelievable, and it would not have happened if we were in office,” Trump said Saturday.
“But America prays for Israel, we send our absolute support to everyone in harm’s way.”
Biden meanwhile was huddling at the White House with his key military and national security advisers, saying on X that the US “commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.”