ZAMBOANGA CITY – Christian residents of this city’s Santa Catalina district found nothing unusual about Muslims bearing carpenters’ tools — until they realized the Muslims had volunteered to help rebuild a Catholic chapel.
“We thought they were just looking for damaged mosques to rebuild,” said Jimmy Villaflores, Santa Catalina barangay (village) head.
But to the surprise of the mostly Christian residents, the Muslims, a number of them residents Zamboanga City who returned home from abroad recently, announced they had come to Santa Catalina to rebuild the Christ the King chapel.
Built in the early 1980′s, the chapel on Martha Drive was razed by one of many fires t6hat broke out during a three-week battle between government forces and a band of Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas loyal to MNLF founder Nur Misuari last September.
When the fighting ended, only the chapel’s back wall and altar were left. The 100-year-old wooden image of the Christ the King, which was regularly used in major religious processions here, did not survive the flames.
“We have not heard of any Muslim helping build a chapel before,” Villaflores said.
But before the Christians could say anything to the Muslims, they went to work, sawing lumber, driving in nails and doing other things to rebuild the chapel.
“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,” Villaflores said.
He said that the help extended by Zamboanga’s Muslim residents, who suffered equally during the three-week siege, hastgened the rebuilding of the chapel.
“Barely a month since the work began our chapel is about 90 percent completed already,” he said.
Father Michael Ufana of the Saint Joseph parish said he was overwhelmed by what the Muslims had shown.