An Interfaith Council for Zamboanga City

On December 23, 2013  the  Sangguniang  Panlungsod (City Council) of  Zamboanga City passed Ordinance No.420  – “ An Ordinance Strengthening the City’s Interfaith Program Through the Creation of the City Interfaith Council and Mandating the Establishment of Interfaith Desks and Focal Persons  and Providing Funds Therefore and for Other Related Purposes.”

In the preamble to the ordinance the City Council acknowledged the Philippine Constitution’s  “policy of peace , cooperation and amity among all nations”  and the city’s affirmation of “ the individual’s right to freedom of religion  and worship…”

In the present demographics of Zamboanga City which counts among its population Christians, Muslims, Lumads and a small number of people from other religions,  the promotion of interfaith amity and harmony holds  great importance.  The September 9 attack on Zamboanga City by  MNLF rebels did not stem from inter-religious difficulties but  saw unease among the Christian and Muslim groups residing in the city.

The ordinance provides for the creation of an Interfaith Council  whose functions include among others the following:

·      Formulation and recommendation of city policies on various interfaith        initiatives within the territorial jurisdiction of the city;

·      Establish and sustain linkages  with various faith-based NGOs, POs,        the academe and CSOs ;

·      Conduct  and facilitate various interfaith activities as the needs arise with the participation of other faith-based groups.

The Interfaith Council will be composed of the City Mayor, the Archbishop of Zamboanga City, and the heads or designated representatives of the Darul Iftah, the Evangelical Group of Churches, , the head of the Indigenous Peoples and other groups including the Silsilah Dialogue Movement,  totaling a membership of 20. The City Mayor will chair the Council and the Co-Chair will be chosen by and from among the members.

The ordinance provides  for the support  structure for the Interfaith Council and for the creation of Interfaith Desks and the designation of Focal Persons  for these desks.  The ordinance also provides for an annual  budget  of PhP2,000,000  which will come from the city’s funds.

The approval of the ordinance is a big boon for groups like the Silsilah Dialogue Movement which  organizes activities  to promote inter-faith harmony. It will be remembered that in 2012 the Silsilah Dialogue Movement spearheaded the celebration of the Interfaith Harmony Week which by UN resolution is marked in the first week of February of every year.  In 2013 the Philippines passed a law sponsored by then Zamboanga 1st District  Congressonal Reprsentative Ma. Isabedlle Climaco-Salazar ( now ZC Mayor) and Senator Loren Legarda making the Interfaith Harmony Week in February an annual celebration in the  Philippines.

At the time of this writing the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and  other cooperators in the project are finalizing plans to mark the 2014 celebration of the Interfaith Harmony Week.

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