Leaders from both the Zamboanga Peninsula Mission (ZPM), the Adventist Church’s administrative region in southwestern Mindanao, Philippines, and the Muslim-dominated islands in the area met for the first-ever Adventist-Muslim Relations fellowship meal at ZPM’s headquarters in Ipil on September 20, 2018. Church leaders sought through the event to increase understanding between the two faiths in the region and provide opportunities for fellowship and respectful exchanges.
The fellowship meal was attended by 32 prominent figures of the Muslim community in the islands of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Fourteen of the leaders were ustadz (teachers in Arabic), 11 were imams (worship leaders), and 7 were panglimas (tribal leaders), regional Adventist leaders reported.
The delegation was headed by Sarabi Camsain, president of the Ulama Council of Ipil, and Farida Dangpalan, a member of the municipal council of Ipil. Church leaders explained that central to the fellowship meal’s agenda was an effort to promote camaraderie and foster cooperation in areas of interest.
Before the meal, ZPM president Elvin R. Salarda reviewed the role of the visitors’ Muslim ancestors in protecting the “people of the Book” in biblical times. He stressed that when Abraham died, Ishmael (Muslim) offered an abode to Isaac (Sabbath-keepers), as older brothers should do. “If we ought to bridge the gap between Christians and Muslims, Adventists may serve as a catalyst to bring the two polarized groups together,” Salarda said.
Southern Asia-Pacific Division communication director Mamerto Guingguing II echoed Salarda’s sentiments. “Given that the two groups have many things in common, they should create a common platform whereby Christians and Muslims could reach out to each other,” he said.
In a response that received applause, Dangpalan hailed the event as “momentous, historical, and exemplary.” Camsain had his moment when he named the Adventists as the Muslims’ younger siblings. “I can see that you are mature in your relationship to Allah because you abhor drinking liquor and gambling.” Both acts are called out for total abstinence by the Holy Qur’an.
The friendship ceremony was celebrated with a Halal-style meal, in which everyone was treated to complementary Muslim and Adventist healthy foods.
One of the Muslim participants said it was clear the fellowship meal is just a beginning. “We look forward to inviting you as soon as possible,” he said. “It is so compelling to know that I have brothers and sisters on the other side. Meeting them and being recognized as their older brother put every Muslim here on a high sense of honor.”
According to Adventist Church statistics, as of June 2017, ZPM had 39,515 baptized Seventh-day Adventist members in a population of 4.3 million. The members meet in 230 churches and congregations.