PEACE WORK IN ISLAM BEFORE AND NOW: SIGNS OF FEAR AND HOPE IN THE PHILIPPINES

SPIRITUALITY AND PEACE WORK – ISA April 11, 2018-03-11

Thank you  for inviting me to this  gathering to present PEACE WORK IN THE TRADITION AND CONTEXT OF ISLAMIC COMMUNITIES.

Reflecting on this theme  I  decided to   develop this theme  focusing on PEACE WORK IN ISLAM  BEFORE AND NOW: SIGNS OF  FEAR  AND HOPE  IN THE PHILIPPINES


INTRODUCTION

During a recent visit to Marawi with a group of friends   I realized, once again, that the future peace in Mindanao will be a long journey. I am convinced of this and with patience I have moved   along the years from, 1977 up to now, with many Muslim and Christian friends before in my first mission of Siocon, Zamboanga Del Norte Mindanao and after when I started the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City in 1984.

My last visit to Marawi was for me an additional proof that the process of   peace in Mindanao is still  long. There are many indications. One of these, quite  new also for me, was when a Maranao friend, coordinator of the  Silsilah Forum Cagayan,  told me: “ Father,  visiting  the refugee camps   where most of the refugees are Maranao, with surprise, I heard a boy  telling me: “ The siege in Marawi  happened because inside the Islamic city of Marawi  there is   the  Saint Mary’s Church”, a Christian church.    The  information  made me  reflect more and  understand  better  how far away we  still are from the  real peace if a Maranao child  at that age is   already “poisoned” by some who  divide us more. Unfortunately, expressions and feelings of division and prejudices have been circulated long ago to divide Christians and Muslims in Mindanao.  Some of these   feelings are built up in the families and some   are fruits of a “culture of division”   built up along the centuries, but especially in this time of so much hatred and divisions in the world.

It was a time when Christians and Muslims in Mindanao   were closer to each other and it was a good climate of friendship and respect. But why not any more now although there are many good efforts to build   dialogue and peace?   The reality is that now is different. The international situation  is influencing  also the Philippines  in this specific aspect of  a hatred justified  by   the teaching of Islam according to those who  are spreading an ideology of hatred that is dangerous and it is present in Mindanao and  it is spreading  around the country.  Forty  years ago I  experienced  the violence of the revolution in Mindanao, but not  the hatred that  today is  part of the teaching of  some sectors of Islam  who have their political agenda.   In this context   those who destroyed Marawi  found support  and    they are moving to   explore  ways to  do something similar  in other  identified areas of Mindanao.

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