Dialogue towards Harmony and a Covid-free Society

(Message from the Inter-Faith Forum for Peace, Harmony and Solidarity)

Our observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2 this year 2020 takes place within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, continuing armed conflict in several areas of Mindanao, and the widespread destruction brought about by typhoons in Luzon.

            Over the past nine months, we have tried to adapt to the “new normal” due to the pandemic — wearing face masks, observing social distancing, and avoiding public places.  Many households have lost their sources of income.  Some have had a death in the family due to the coronavirus. Others have been infected and have sought hospital aid or have been restricted under quarantine procedures.

            In the midst of this pandemic, we have come to realize our interconnectedness and common humanity — encompassing Christian, Muslim, and Lumad communities alike.  Let us reach out to our brothers and sisters in need, especially those without work or found in isolated areas.

            But sadly, in remote areas, we still hear reports of sporadic skirmishes between armed groups.  It is in this light that we add our voices asking for a ceasefire from all sides.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed out that “the severity of the crisis we face in the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the tragedy and folly of the ongoing suffering caused by armed conflict.”

            In its stead, Pope Francis speaking for Christians and Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, speaking for Muslims, declared in their joint statement on Human Fraternity “the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”  The bishops and ulama of Mindanao have also called for “Dialogue Towards Harmony.”  We add: “Working Together Towards Peace and Healing from Covid-19” and destructive typhoons.

            Lately, we have experienced the destructive fury of Typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses in Luzon.  What is often overlooked is that the destruction has been worsened by the man-made destruction of the watershed areas surrounding Metro Manila and other regions.   The same danger still hangs over many parts of our island of Mindanao due to irresponsible logging and mining operations — now aggravated by the extension of the Tampakan mega-mining permit in South Cotabato that would affect lumad, Muslim and Christian communities.

            Our inter-faith traditions impel us to protect and conserve the environment as a gift from the Creator and to take care of our common home, our island of Mindanao.  We, the Lumads, Muslims and Christians, believe and accept that we glorify God when we take good care of nature.   “What is the matter with you, that you are not conscious of Allah’s majesty, seeing that it is He Who has created you in diverse stages? See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a (glorious) lamp?” (Surah 71:13-17).  The psalmist sings with the congregation, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1).

Participants from partner institutions of PAZ joined the Mural Peace Painting at the perimeter fence of Ayala National High School in Zamboanga City for the Mindanao Week of Peace 2019.


        It is in this light that as leaders and representatives of our religious communities, we ask for:

 *  continued assistance from our communities for Covid- and typhoon-affected households;
 *  a comprehensive ceasefire from all sides and the resumption of peace talks; and
 *  environmental restrictions on mining and logging operations to protect our communities.

(Signed)

Archbishop Jose Cabantan, RCC; Bishop Felixberto Calang, IFI; Bishop Arthur Colot, MCMF; Bishop Abner Dalupu, MCMF; Bishop Alex Eduave, MELC;  Bishop Rudy Juliada, IFI; Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, RCC; Bishop Ligaya San Francisco, UCCP; Bishop Genesis Udang, PCEC; Msgr. Rey Monsanto, RCC; Fr. Vic Arellano, IFI; Fr. Erdman Pandero, RCC; Pastor Raul Roa, COEMA; Rev. Nasalli Silava, COEMA/PCEC;  Rev. Joel Bagunol, UCCP;  Engr. Mohamad Gondarangin, Pres. of Oro Jamaah Masjid; Ms. Mona Lisa Pangan, RCC; and others.

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