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MILF seeks Papal Maguindanao visit

COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao – The rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has entered into a peace arrangement with the government, invited Pope Francis to make a swing to this city during his five-day visit to the Philippines to help “fast track the attainment of peace in Mindanao,” an MILF leader said on Tuesday.

Al Hadj Murad Ebrahim said a papal visit into the heartland of the Bangsamoro could help bring about peace in Mindanao, which has been rocked by religious, armed and social conflicts for decades.

“In fact, the MILF is sending the chairman of the Muslim House of Opinion, the highest Muslim leader in the Philippines … in case he declines our sincere offer owing to his very right schedule,” Ebrahim said.

Pope Francis, who was scheduled to arrive on Thursday, has embarked on an Asian pilgrimage that will take him to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He will visit Tacloban City, which was hit by a powerful typhoon that killed thousands of people last year.

The government expected millions of people to welcome the Pope and attend a mass and other public events he will attend in the capital. President Aquino has declared  a three-day holiday starting on Thursday.

Western Mindanao State University Professor Ali Yacub welcomed Murad Ebrahim’s invitation to the Pope as “a true gesture of brotherhood and said he hope Pope Francis would accept.

He said that some people were skeptical and others were horrified at the invitation because the Pope will be taking a risk if he goes to Mindanao, but “God will protect him because he is sincere.”

“Do you think the Pope is scared of  the Muslims? St. Francis of Assisi mixed with Muslim mystics (the Sufis), so it is no wonder that St. Francis’ prayers were as mystical as those of the Muslim Sufis,” he said.

In Baguio City, Napoleon Nazareno, President of Smart Communications, said millions of Filipinos can share with friends their Papal Visit experience on-line on free through social networking application Twitter.

He said Smart has entered into partnership with Twitter to offer the free application for free from January 15 to 19 and follow the Pope’s witter account or send prayers and wishes using #DearPopeFrancis hashtag and get real-time updates on the visit.

“With this collaboration, Smart and Twitter aim to allow more Filipinos to get involved and immerse in this historic experience with Pope Francis, who our Catholic nation hold very dear to our heart,” Nazareno told a press conference.

The Pope is the second most followed world leader on Twitter with more than 17 million followers across nine accounts in different languages. His Tweets are among the most popular and consistently re-tweeted several thousand times.

                 

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