The future peace in Mindanao possible only if we educate all to see each other as brothers and sisters


During a recent visit to Marawi with a group of friends of Silsilah and some of the Ateneo Xavier University   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, 1984 up to now, with many Muslims and Christian friends of Silsilah, including some indigenous  people, parts of our different programs of   dialogue and peace.

My last  visit to Marawi a few days ago was, for me, an additional proof  that the process  of transformation is still long. There are many indications. One of this, 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 since  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.

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. Forty years ago I, too, experienced in Mindanao a better climate of friendship between Muslims and Christians , but  now is different. In a few words we can say that  the international influence  of  a certain   way to  spread  Islam or destroying Islam  from some sectors and groups  are  more visible. In this context   those who destroyed  Marawi  found support  and they still move to   explore  ways to  do something similar  in other  identified areas of Mindanao.

In this stage of “fear” I find  a number of good Muslim religious leaders “paralyzed”. Sometimes I ask some of them: “ Why do you not help in this situation, you are a leaders, you are respected? They say: “Father, now is  very difficult, they ( those who promote a  terrorism using the teaching of Islam) are dangerous. Personally,  I was informed   of a concrete situation of  a group of Muslim  religious leaders  condemming violent terrorism and later they received  a  note against  them. And this  sad stories are already many.

I saw   the ground zero of Marawi with a group of friends from a  high position and  when the group  asked a military who was with us  why people can not go inside,  the answer  was that  there are still hundreds  of bombs that need to be detonated. That was the official reason.   In  this situation   the government is  pushing for the  approval of the BBL ( Bangsamoro Basic Law).  I am convinced that  this can help  if   the BBL respect the basic aspirations of those  groups  who do not  like to be part  of  the BBL and  of those who like. There is hope in  many that the BBL can solve some urgent problems of the increasing terrorism.  My hope is that   this time  the leaders  who are involved in this new  adventure of the BBL will move with more wisdom,   avoiding  past mistakes.

This is the time  to  work hard to    build a new law   for the common good.  All of us are called to   help   preparing the ground of friendship and not to  put a part the “dream” to  build a Mindanao   where  a Christian  can  be free  and respected  in a  majority Muslim  area and a Muslim can be free and respected in a majority Christian  area.

The goodness  of a religious group  can not be counted  with the number of Mosques  or Churches in a specific area. It can only be  counted in the daily life working together on the path of respect and friendship. For this reason, I often start my greetings in public saying: “ Peace be with you / Assalamualaikum, brothers and sisters”. Yes, I wish to emphasize that  both of us , Christians  and Muslims,  have  in common the  greeting  of  peace. Jesus greeted the   Apostles    after the resurrection saying:” Peace be with you” and Christians are  happy that Muslims too   greet each other “ Assalamualaikum” ( peace be with you). I add always “brothers and sisters”  because  the great dream for me is still when all of  us  can greet  each other, with sincere hearts as brothers and sisters:  “Peace be with you/Assalamualaikum”.


Only  when we reach this  stage can we say that really peace can    become a reality and  we do not hear  any more children who   are  misled in their innocent  years, but they too can  be  invited to greet  all with a  greeting of peace.


Founder of Silsilah Dialogue Movement

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