10/12/2006, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Mindanao: Christians and Muslims celebrate feast of Virgin of Pilar together

by Santosh Digal

The feast of the patroness of Zamboanga is being marked today. The authorities have called on all the population to invoke Mary with true faith and to remain united in times of adversity like now, after torrential rains devastated the city.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – Today the Christian and Muslim communities of Zamboanga, in the southern province of Mindanao, will come together to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Pilar, patroness of the city.

This was announced by the deputy mayor of the city, Beng Climaco, who called on her co-citizens to "light a candle with true faith before the shrine of Our Lady, and to believe miracles happen".

Climaco said she was "sure the Marian feast will unite the population, shaken by the recent storms that struck our coasts: we will put misunderstanding aside and with the help of the Virgin, we will remain united in adversity."

The city authorities had to declare a state of natural disaster after fierce rains destroyed several homes but Climaco said: "Let us all be happy. We must believe miracles do happen and celebrate the feast of our patroness with faith, because with her help, even the rains and winds can be overcome."

The southern archipelago of Mindanao has been torn apart by around 40 years of rebellion by Muslim guerrillas who are asking for formal independence from Manila. The government started to concede partial autonomy to the two main rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front, but interfaith tension remains high in the area.

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