An Inter-Faith Voice against Violence in the name of Religion | Nov 17, 2010

The massacre in Baghdad on October 31 inside a Syrian Catholic Church during the celebration of the mass has urged us,

members of the INTER-FAITH Council of Leaders (ifcl) of Zamboanga City in Mindanao, to reflect once again on the “Anger that drives violence in the world and what do the Bible and the Qur’an tell us about anger and violence”.
The report on the massacre in Baghdad said that 58 were killed and 70 wounded. The testimony of a priest as reported by the Fides Agency says “We are living something that is really terrible. There had never been a massacre of such magnitude, all within a church during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I have visited the church and listened to the testimonies of the faithful in shock. The terrorists mercilessly killed women and children. The community is traumatized. The church looked like a cemetery”.
This terrible news convinces us, once again, how terrible it is when violence is carried out, in the local or international level, and then is justified by the group that carried it out as an action in the name of God. We reaffirm the right and freedom of each religion to be. In different ways we know that all religions encourage people towards the love of God and the love of neighbour, and we hope that all religious leaders will promote harmony among different cultures and religions and subscribe to the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace.
The IFCL has Muslims and Christians as members. A respected Ustadz in the group has sadly acknowledged that there are Muslim groups in the local and international levels that may have misunderstood the Holy Qur’an and improperly used the Holy Book in advancing their cause. Christian and Muslim members admit that there are occasions when religion has been, and still is, used for political and economic reasons. Some of the Christian members also admit that in the past Christianity was responsible for many forms of violence but in recent times the Church has rectified the mistakes of the past. This was made possible through the critical reading of history and reading the signs of the time to put a stop to any form of violence in the name of the Catholic religion. Thus, if violence is still being done by nations which claim to be Christian this violence cannot be called “Christian violence”.

It is in this spirit that the document “Nostra Aetate” of the Vatican Council II clearly says
Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom”.

Islam is also making great efforts to overcome mistakes of the past that have brought violence in the world. There are encouraging signs of change, especially in the 2007 open letter of 138 Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders in the world. This letter starts by saying
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbours is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.

In spite of this and other encouraging moves on the part of Muslim leadership in the world, we feel that today Islam is a prisoner of some groups in the local, national and international levels. Meanwhile we raise once again our voice against the oppression of Muslims in some parts of the world like in Palestine and also in India, where there is a group of Hindus guided by political agenda who go against minority groups, among these also Muslims and Christians. We are also deeply disturbed by events of violence in the local scene and in other parts of Mindanao. We want to raise our voice especially against all forms of violence that have been done in the name of God.
As Muslim and Christian leaders we are concerned for the good name of our own religion and we cannot tolerate that there are still groups inside our respective religions and followers of other religions, in our area and in the world, that encourage violence in the name of God. Doing so is doubly ungodly. All of us have to move together towards a civilization oriented towards the common good, a civilization of respect, reconciliation, forgiveness and love, as our holy books encourage us to do, if we read them properly and without a bias towards vested interests.
We, the IFCL members, believe that Muslims and Christians, with people of other cultures and religions, have to move together for the common good. There are many positive and encouraging signs of dialogue in our world, but people are bombarded by many forms of violence directly observed and heard of, or reported in the media. These are greatly disturbing and so, many get discouraged.
Some think that arming people and groups can be a solution to counteract violence, but we believe that violence calls for retaliation which sets off a cycle of violence. Thus, a culture of violence begins to set in and becomes a wedge to drive people apart, especially if they are brainwashed by those who use religion to justify violence.
May Muslims who start their prayer and Qur’anic reading by saying “In the Name of Allah/God, the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate…” discover the deeper meaning of mercy and compassion for humanity; and Christians who believe in the Commandment of Love of God and others rediscover that love is the path to peace.

We close this reflection/statement with the wish that we continue to reflect on what more we can do in the midst of violence in our world and with the hope that Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths will “compete” with each other only in goodness and never again use violence. We know that we do not have all the answers to the present situation of violence in the local, national and international levels, but we believe that if we continue to dream peace, promoting the Culture of Dialogue, peace will prevail in our areas and we contribute to the establishment of peace in the world.

Zamboanga City-Mindanao
(Statement prepared on the occasion of the IFCL monthly gathering on November 6, 2010)

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