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.

 

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