A SAD NEWS DURING CHRISTMAS TIME FOR CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS WHO BELIEVE IN DIALOGUE | December 30, 2015
The news comes from Iraq with the title “Islamic State brand Christmas festivities ‘heretical’. The news comes from Iraq with the title “Islamic State brand Christmas festivities ‘heretical’. This is one of the many alarming news that circulate in the world today as part of a growing radicalism that makes good Muslims uneasy and more in solidarity with the Christians. Some can question this reflection telling me: “why do you bring this news here? This is only what happened in Iraq.” Well, it is difficult to tell names of Muslim leaders here in Mindanao who share the same statement coming from Iraq. It is painful for me and for many who believe in Muslim- Christian dialogue to see that things are moving in the wrong direction and radicalism in variety of forms with ideologies of violence, like the recent violence in Cotabato area. The AsiaNews sources in the north of Iraq report that ISIS militants in Monsul have posted signs in the City ordering Muslims “not to celebrate” Christmas in any way with the Christians, because “they are heretics”. The News continue to say that the Christians have answered telling the Muslims to follow their faith and “to leave them free to have their celebrations “ reminding to the Muslims that the Holy Qur’an says: “ I have my religion, to you yours”. Indeed, in some parts of Mindanao we are reaching to the same point of Iraq. We have already some Muslim religious leaders who discourage Muslims to join Christians in celebrating the joy of Christmas, one strong tradition in the Philippines. The Muslims are disoriented at this point as well as in other points. Celebrating together any Muslim or Christian event is a sign of respect, solidarity and friendship and not a sign of accepting the faith behind the celebration that is not our faith. The same we can say for other events like marriages and traditions that have religious implications in society. This is a time when we invite religious leaders to be more courageous promoting dialogue and understanding because we believe that if this attitude continue it will also be detrimental to the same faith we profess. We in Silsilah Dialogue Movement, since 1984, have been consistent to remind Muslims to be good Muslims and Christians to be good Christians. This principle can also be applied for people of other cultures and religions. We understand that often new radical moves are alimented by local and international strategies. Thus, a question can be raced: “Why are some leaders accepting to be used by these devil plans? Where are we going now? What will be our future in Mindanao? It is time to wake up and not live in denial accepting the reality that some among the leaders who support violence are victims of ideological and geo-political strategies that are dividing us, now more than before. So many sad stories today! Christians are victimized because they are Christians and Muslims because they are Muslims. My reflection here is related to any action that is covered by a wrong religious identity. More often Islam today emerges in some conflicting issues of violence to the point that some Muslims say that some are planning to destroy Islam. No matter what is the real analysis of this point, it is alarming. In a sharing during an interfaith meeting in Zamboanga City I raced the issue of the celebration of Christmas to some respected Muslim religious friends. I complained about reports that some leaders used to discourage the Muslims to join the Christians during Christmas celebration. The sharing brought us to many points, at the end they admitted that there are some Muslim religious leaders who are spreading wrong information about the proper relation with the Christians. The Holy Qur’an says that the Christians are the “people of the book “ and they have to be respected by the Muslims. They are not “Kafir” (infidel). Today we know some Muslims who do not belong to a certain group of Muslim are also called “Kafir”. We can go behind this argument and say: “What is wrong to be “kafir?” Or who are the “kafir”? All of us are free to practice our own faith. We know also that some declare that they are “atheists”, some of them do not see good example in people who claim to have a specific faith. The principle is that any one is free, provided that each one respects the basic law of the country. The future of Mindanao is to build a multicultural and multi religious society where Muslims, Christians, Indigenous people, Chineses and others can be respected in their identity and religions. Today, more than before, we are challenged to share good examples and good stories. Personally, I have many good and sincere Muslim friends. All of us are touched by the love of God, and our soul is an expression of this love that we have to cultivate and share. With this spirit Pope Francis opened the special Jubilee of Mercy started last December 8 inviting all to share love and solidarity with all peoples of different cultures and religions.