DREAMING TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE PEACE IN MINDANAO | April 25, 2015

This is the last stage of a long journey of the peace agreement in Mindanao known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Silsilah Dialogue Movement, on many occasions, has affirmed that the Movement has the mission to be a “voice of conscience” and to link people willing to build together a sincere and sustainable dialogue and peace in society, promoting a spiritual approach of living and promoting the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace.

The recent statement of the Inter Faith Council of leaders (IFCL) of Zambaonga, a group of Muslim and Christian leaders affiliated with Silsilah, affirmed the importance to review the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on points that need to be modified, to find ways to harmonize the aspirations of different Moro groups, to listen to the comments and suggestions of the parts and after to implement it. My reflection at this point goes beyond the approval of BBL and share a more alarming issue that it is related to the “FEAR” projected by many, those who are not in favor and those who are in favor of the approval of the BBL.
Both sides are using the card of “fear”. This is emerging clearer, more and more now after the recent issues related to the siege in Zamboanga, the Mamasapano incident, the growth of new revolutionary groups with more radical approaches and other international incidents committed by radical and violent groups who operate in other countries, but have connections in the Philippines. In addition, the gap between the different cultural Muslim groups, the Moro National Liberation Front ( MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ( MILF) and other new revolutionary groups linked with international “terrorist” groups add more fear and present a more alarming scenario.

Since 1977 I have been in Mindanao to promote dialogue and peace. I have contributed in many ways to promote dialogue in the country , but I have also been misunderstood especially by Christians who believe that I am too close to the Muslims in this “difficult dialogue” . This is part of the mission…. I have always been consistent to say that there is hope to build a peaceful society in the plurality of cultures and religions promoting the Culture of Dialogue, Path to peace based on respect and moving together for the common good. My enemies are those who do not like and do not believe in this dialogue.
Hearing stories of discriminations of Christians in Muslim dominated areas and Muslims in Christian dominated areas in the Philippines, we have to accept the reality that the mission of dialogue and peace is becoming more difficult, especially because of alarming international groups that find “sympathizers” and support in the Philippines. In a recent statement of the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue of the Vatican we read : “ To kill in the name of religion is not only an offence to God, but it is also a defeat for humanity.”

This statement is also echoed in many other declarations coming from respected Christian and Muslim leaders and institutions around the world as well as leaders of other religions and organizations. Saying this, we can also ask ourselves who is behind this “Culture of Violence” using religions, especially Islam? If it is sponsored by Islamic countries we ask, why? And if it is sponsored by other countries who are not identified as Islamic countries the same question emerges: Why? And why does Islam allows these countries to use Islam to pursue their geo-political strategy?

All these international news also reinforce the prejudices among Muslims, Christians and Indigenous People in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. What will happen to our beautiful land if the peace process will not find the proper solution, not only in terms of agreement, but especially in terms of relation and trust among people? It is alarming that both sides, pro or against BBL, emphasize the need of peace based on “FEAR”. The argument of fear alone is dangerous and can not be sustained in the long run. We have to be more creative in presenting issues and to ventilate more positive points that inspire people to build development and peace in Mindanao through a process of reconciliation, trust and confidence among different sectors of society starting from the less priviledged.

How can peace be sustained if it is based on fear? And how can we prepare the people, especially the youth, to understand that any agreement of peace has to carry elements of sincerity, sensitivity and solidarity on both sides? We are also invited to be more sensitive and just and not to accuse some to be “anti- Muslims” or “anti- Christians” if they express their opinion. This is the time when we have to create more space for sincere dialogue and move with open minds listening more about the fear of others, but after to move beyond “fear”.

May Islam in Mindanao become really a “religion of Peace” and Christianity really a “religion of Love” as we normally say. We have to prove it with our witnessing life as Muslims and as Christians ready to build together a Culture of Dialogue for a more comprehensive and sustainable peace in Mindanao.

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