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Bishops-Ulama conference underscores religions role in peacebuilding

At the core of every creed rests a foundational principle, which is peace. Whether it is the concept of Islam, Christianity, or others, all religions pursue a common goal of advancing harmony, tranquility, and non-violence.

Notwithstanding the conflicts and brutality that have unfortunately become inevitable in society, it is essential to note that these incidents do not embody the true essence of any religion. True to this, numerous religious leaders and organizations are actively working towards promoting peace and interfaith dialogue.

In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), religious leaders convened in a two-day Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) organized by the international non-government organization Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) together with the Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).

Such an event publicized their joint statement that strongly deplored the barbaric explosion at Mindanao State University (MSU)-Main Campus in Marawi City on December 3, 2023, that claimed four lives and wounded several others. 

Bangsamoro Darul-Ifta's Islamic jurist, Dr. Muhammad Nadzir Ebil, emphasized that a bad image was just painted following this incident. 

However, he conveyed that no religion is giving any room for conflicts to happen. 

“Remember, lahat ng mga relihiyon ay nagkakaisa [sa paniniwalang] kailangan mapangalagaan ng mga tao ang limang bagay, ang kanyang relihiyon, buhay, property, mind, at dignidad. Lahat ng mga relihiyon ay nagkakaisa sa bagay na ito [Remember that all religions are one in the belief that people need to take care of five things: their religion, life, property, mind, and dignity],” said Ebil.

Further, their solidarity and sturdy support for more peace-inclined endeavors were likewise magnified.

“We would like to reaffirm that the Mindanao Bishops are very much behind this declaration of mutual recognition and supporting our religious traditions for peace,” said Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City Archbishop Emeritus Most Reverent Antonio Ledesma.

A two-day Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) is conducted to convene religious leaders in Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of HWPL)

Sustaining peace efforts in BARMM

Throughout history, religion has played a significant role in shaping the beliefs and behaviors of individuals and communities, especially in the Bangsamoro region. Fortunately, the pious representatives here share a passion for peace.

Archdiocese of Cotabato Archbishop Most Reverent Angelito Lampon conveyed that they intend to continue the BUC, especially that they received an assurance of support from OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. 

He recalled that this conference had existed since 1976 but just died down slowly. Nonetheless, Lampon showed his gladness over the plan of resurrecting this convention.

Ebil also bared that they still have future plans to continue their dialogue, especially that they have treated this as part of the mandate of their office, which is pushing for efforts advocating for lasting peace.

As to the necessary reinforcement, HWPL-Philippines Chief Branch Manager John Rommel Garces expressed the same sentiment, especially after their elation for having been able to facilitate the BUC in collaboration with the OPAPRU. 

He said the organizers found this convention important since, for a very long time, they have not heard of a joint statement of bishops and ulamas, even though there have been events similar to what happened during the December 3 bombing. 

Following this, he raised the challenge of bringing the BUC to the grassroots level and maintaining it. 

“We will be in cooperation with the OPAPRU, bishops, and ulamas to sustain what we have started today,” he said. 

Carlito Galvez Jr., the secretary of OPAPRU, gave his approval as well, and he was pleased to emphasize that everyone's shared desire for peace has transcended all differences.

He added that this even instilled the realization that this undertaking is not only anchored on their goal of addressing pressing social-political concerns in the region but is also deeply rooted in their faith as Muslims and Christians. 

Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. says the collective desire in attaining peace has transcended the differences of everyone. (Photo courtesy of HWPL)

Bannering this administration’s slogan for its peace initiatives, which is ‘Peace: Bawat buhay mahalaga’, Galvez then urged everyone to work towards achieving peace where no ethnicity is neglected, no gender is favored, no hope of people is forgotten, and no religion is privileged.

"Ultimately, it is our faith that strengthens the resolve to further improve initiatives and build on the gains of peace,” he said.

As a denouement, while ferocious acts may grab headlines, it is imperative to keep in mind that all religions are fundamentally for peace. By promoting interfaith conversation, compassion, and synergy, each one can strive towards molding a more peaceful and conducive community. (CRG/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

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Claire Gigje

Information Officer I

Region 10

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