A Christian was killed in Jolo a few days ago and a reliable source told me that twenty Christians have been targeted to be killed or kidnapped soon. In the midst of so many good Muslim leaders and friends of Jolo the Christian community is suffering a form of persecution from those who are guided by bad elements who claim to do it in the name of Islam. My question to those in authority is: “Why are the national and local leaders of different sectors in authority silent? And why do those who have power not act and find proper solutions?” We hear some voices, even among the military, who complain and point the finger in the right direction, but we do not see yet any relevant solutions.

The past beautiful relationship among Christians and Muslims in Jolo is no longer a reality there. Many Christian Chinese have left and many other Christians are planning to leave if they have a chance. Sad to say, that this is good news for those who wish to leave their houses and properties, but it is bad news for a society that has been proud of the glorious past of Jolo.

I appeal to all, especially to you Muslim leaders, who are part of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement as part of the Inter faith Council of leaders (IFCL), those who have attended the different courses of dialogue and peace promoted by Silsilah, those who received our Silsilah Calendar , those who have been trained by Silsilah as Madaris Gurus for dialogue and peace, those youths who have been part of the SilPeace program of Silsilah and other respected leaders. This appeal is for all because we care for all in Jolo. Like many of you, we dream a future peace in Jolo where all are respected and free to pray following their own religion.

Many live now in fear in Jolo and this is what the bad elements like. The Christians are afraid to talk, afraid also to go to the church even if there are military watching the cathedral in the center of the city. A church that was a pride of the Muslims in the past and a sign of Muslim- Christian dialogue before, but now no more for many who follow a more “divisive” Islam. In addition some of them complain of the central position of the cathedral in Jolo. A cathedral that can still be a sign of hope if we do not allow the destruction of the goodness of Islam and the friendship of Muslims and Christians.

Why is this happening in the beautiful land of Jolo? I have been in Mindanao for forty years and I know that the tausugs of Jolo are courageous. I appeal to the courage and goodness of the people of Jolo before it will be too late and the world will accuse you for being silent in the agony of the Christian community of Jolo as well the agony of other Muslims. Indeed, the situation is also alarming for good Muslims because today the bad elements find reasons to kill also the Muslims saying that some are “kafir” (infidel) like the other Christians. They forget the great tradition of Islam to respect Christians as people of the book.
O Lord, how long will this agony of the Christians and the shame of good Muslims of Jolo continue?

I recall with hope what we read in the Holy Bible and in the Holy Qur’an, hoping that this becomes a reality in jolo:

– “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Gospel – Mt 5:7)

– “In the name of God, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful” (Holy Qur’an, at the beginning of almost all the Surah).

When I open this issue to friends from Jolo who live in Zamboanga most of the time, they do not comment or they say that other countries are responsible, as well some national and local leaders who have power are part of the dirty games of Jolo that have many faces. Often we get the truth from the simple people who do not have voice.
But, how can we give voice to those who do not have voice or are afraid to raise their voice?

Sharing this painful reflections and reality about Jolo I am convinced that the situation can improve and Jolo can become again a beautiful place where all can go and live. Thus, my prayer is the Harmony Prayer, especially the last part of it:
“Give me, O Lord, the courage to live-in-dialogue in the midst of divisions and conflicts and to build peace with all people of sincere hearts who believe in your love and compassion.”

Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME

Silsilah Dialogue Movement

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