By KIMBERLY NGABIT QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Some 100 bikers, young and old gathered around 7PM tonight, December 7 at the Rose Garden for a monthly night ride. They were supposed to ride with Imam Bedejim Abdullah if he was not murdered.
Imam Bedejim, as most Baguio people call him, was gunned down by a lone assailant along Kayang St, one of the busiest streets in the city, in broad day light before lunch on December 6. A CCTV footage showed that the killer shot him twice from behind while he was walking and three more times after fell on the pavement.
The Imam was laid to rest in a cemetery in Bulacan several hours after his death following the Muslim tradition.
Jim Ward, like many others, was shocked to hear about what happened to Imam Bedejim. “One can only speculate what or who is behind the killing, but for the many years I have known him, he has no enemies,” he said.
Ward said he first met the Imam in September 2004 when a group of local interfaith people had dinner in his newly opened cafe back then. Later he learned that the Imam was a cyclist like him.
“That (cycling) was our first bond. He had a lot of curiosity about Buddhism as I did about Islam…that was our second bond…We become fast friends,” Ward said.
“His original occupation was as a butcher in the Islamic halal tradition. So we jokingly called each other ‘Jim the butcher’ and ‘Jim the vegetarian’,” Ward added.
“We did interfaith activities together, we hiked and we had a very special friendship. But mostly we cycled,”
Ward said their love for cycling and the environment led them, together with two other local cyclist to establish a bikers group they called the Daily Cycle Movement (DCM). He said that while most biker groups are into sports their group advocates the use of bikes as a basic mode of transportation. He said it is a practical solution to the city’s problem on air pollution and lack of parking spaces; also to the soaring price of gasoline and is a healthy exercise.
The December 7 night ride they dubbed as “tour of the light” was among the three regular monthly rides that of the DCM. The night ride they show the proper lighting and other gears for the safety of riders at night. The other monthly ride they call the “critical mass” is where they aim to show that growing number of bikers and encourage more people to join. And the third is what they call the “menstrual cycle” which is an all women ride for empowerment.
Michael Bengwayan, a known environmental advocate on his social media account said that Imam Bedejim is a “tree planter”. “One time, in the middle of stormy day, he came to me to ask for seedlings to plant,” he added.
Bengwayan said that the last time he talked to Imam Bedejim was when the latter asked about how to replant trees in “devastated” Marawi.
“Bedejim was a beautiful example of true Islam…from my perspective. I saw him deal with fear and ignorance about his faith with wisdom and compassion…he just wanted people to know the beauty in his faith and what it meant to him,” Ward said.
Ward admired the Imam’s “tireless effort” in explaining his faith.
“I lost a very dear spiritual and cycling brother of 14 years this morning in an act of violence. There will be a void left in me at his passing,” Ward added.
Bengwayan described Imam Bedijim “a moderate Muslim preacher who advocated peace”. He added that the Iman often joined in interfaith prayers.
Tongtongan ti Umili, a progressive multisectoral group described Imam Bedejim as “a peace-loving individual”. The group added that he was instrumental in movements against violent extremism, extra-judicial killings, environmental destruction and the entry of casinos in the city.
“Imam Bedejim was very active in his advocacies. He was instrumental in movements against violent extremism, extra-judicial killings, environmental destruction and the entry of casinos in the city. He also built facilitated harmony and sought unity with other religious groups and was usually at the forefront of inter-faith dialogue and events,” Tongtongan said in a statement.
A great loss
Tongtongan, the Philippine Military Academy together with other groups and individuals condemned the murder of Imam Bedejim and called on authorities to immediately and impartially investigate the case to bring the culprit to the bar of justice.
“Tongtongan ti Umili joins the whole community in mourning and calling for justice for Imam Bedejim Abdullah. Likewise, we call on the people of Baguio to be vigilant in our quest for justice and our struggle to put an end to lawless violence.”
PMA recognized Imam Bedejim’s voluntary service to the academy. “The Philippine Military Academy recognizes and appreciates his effort for almost seventeen years of invaluable support to the command for his altruistic involvement and participation especially to the Muslim Community of this command in providing religious and moral values program in support to the Character Development of the cadets.”
PMA is confident that the Philippine National Police will be able to bring justice to the Imam’s death as they encouraged the public to report any information that would lead to the resolution of the case.
City officials are also calling on the immediate resolution of the Imam’s murder.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the Imam has been instrumental in keeping a good relationship between Christians and Muslims in the city.
“We condemn the killing of Imam Bedejim Abdullah. We directed immediately the BCPO to form the task force to conduct all the necessary investigations and find out who are those perpetrators of this heinous crime committed in the city of Baguio and bring them to the arms of the law,” Domogan said in a video message posted on his social media page.
The Baguio City Police Office announced on December 7 the creation of a task force for the Imam’s murder.
Councilor Arthur Allad-iw said the murder of Imam Bedejim is a great loss to the city. “Imam Bedejim was instrumental in keeping peace in the city and stood against gambling and violence,” he said.
In a November 2009 interview with Allad-iw, Imam Bedejim called for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and expressed sadness that it happened when Muslims all over the world were celebrating the Haj month where Muslims are fasting in commemoration of the triumph of the Prophet Abraham from the test of Allah.
Imam Bedejim said: “May Allah hurl the criminals into the deepest pit of hell and may Allah reward well in paradise those who have fallen victims of the atrocity.” # nordis.net