The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), UNICEF and its partner Muslim Religious Groups – Bangsamoro Darul Ifta, Hay-ato Ulama Al-Muslimin in the Philippines and the Committee on Da’wah and Masajid Affairs – successfully completed the series of Consultation with Muslim Religious Leaders on COVID-19 Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccination Roll-out, Immunization and Hygiene  in the Island provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan this February to March 2022. 

The said consultations are in line with the support of these partner organizations in the campaign for eradication of COVID-19 Pandemic that has imparted heavily, but disproportionately on the socio-economic fabric of the region’ communities.   Although the Ministry of Health (MOH) – BARMM reported a decline in the number of COVID 19 cases in February this year, this is still far from the total eradication that all wanted.   

The roll-out and popularization of the developed sermons related to COVID-19 Prevention and COVID-19 vaccination provided the MRLs with appropriate Islamic teachings to propel their engagement at  the provincial, municipal and down to the barangay levels.   Their immediate task is to convince people to get vaccinated and address the fake news and religious misconceptions against COVID-19 vaccination, through Khutba (Sermon) and Muhadarah. 

Specifically, it was able to raise awareness of Muslim Religious Leaders (MRLs) on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus, to increase the recognition of Muslim Religious Leaders’ important roles in Risk Communication and Community Engagement for protection of their families and communities, to increase recognition of MRLs’ important roles in informing and encouraging people on the   importance of COVID-19 Vaccination for adults, adolescents and immunization and hygiene for children.

A total of 849 Muslim Religious Leaders composed of Imams, Khatibs (Khutaba) an

d Muhaderat from the different municipalities of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan have participated the said consultations which commenced with Technical Working Group Meetings in every province. In Sulu province, the series of consultations were done in the early part up to mid-part of 

February 2022 that was followed by the province of Tawi-Tawi in the mid-part of February 2022 up to 2nd week of March 2022. While in Basilan province, the consultations were done in the later part of March 2022. 

“Philippine News Agency, February 5, 2022 issue:  ”COVID 19 Infections in BARMM, Waning”

Some highlights of the consultations include the interaction between the Muslim Religious Groups’ Focal Persons – Sheikh Talal Sabpa of Bangsamoro Darul Ifta, Sheikh Marhan Borhan of Committee on Daw’ah and Masajid Affairs and Sheikh Ismael Tuanandatu of the Hay-ato Ulama Al-Muslimin in the Philippines –  health workers from IPHOs / RHUs and participating MRLs to discuss the health and Islamic perspectives of COVID-19 prevention and vaccination. A planning session every consultation was also done to outline the activities to be done by the participating MRLs as  support programs upon they return to their respective communities. 

In December 2021, the group also completed the series of consultation with the 463 Muslim Religious Leaders of Lanao del Sur while this April 2022, while the Muslims are observing the holy month of Ramadhan, consultations in Maguindanao, Cotabato City and the Special Geographic Areas (SGA) will also be done to complete the target 38 consultations all over BARMM region.

These consultations are part of the implementation of the programStrengthening Engagement with Muslim Religious Leaders for Promotion of Child Rights and Islam, a project that being implemented since April 2019 which also facilitated the development of Compendium of 44 Child Rights and Islam Sermons that launched on August 26, 2021 in Cotabato City that graced and witnessed by officials and representatives of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and different ministries of BARMM, INGOs, IMT-Civilian Protection Component, Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC) and other partners from humanitarian and development works.

CBCS including the partner organizations also hailed the support given by the host LGUs and IPHO / RHU representatives during the consultation process as they provided all the necessary assistance needed by the team during the preparations and actual conduct of consultations. 

Representatives from the partner organizations headed by CBCS Project Officer Mohamad Omar, project and finance assistants Aileen Samidon and Hamida Pangalao, and Focal Persons from the Muslim Religious Groups composed of Sheikh Talal Sabpa of the Bangsamoro Darul Ifta, Sheikh Marhan Borhan of Committee on Da’wah and Masajid Affairs and Sheikh Ismael Tuanadatu of Hay-ato Ulama Al-Muslimin in the Philippines needed to spend almost two months in the BARMM’s Island Provinces for completion of the said consultations despite the travel challenges brought by travel restrictions and possible infections from the COVID-19 virus.