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Mindanao religious leaders take joint stand to condemn peace spoilers

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur (PIA)-- Mindanao religious leaders, representing both Muslim and Christian faiths, have joined forces in a resolute stand against those who seek to disrupt peace in the region.

Their unified voice condemned the "heinous sacrilegious" bombing incident that took place during a Catholic Mass at the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus on December 3, 2023.

These religious leaders asserted in a joint statement dubbed "Religions are for Peace" that the teachings of every religion in the world condemn the killing of innocent bystanders and religious believers as a demonic act.

The statement highlighted a shared condemnation from both Islamic and Christian perspectives, emphasizing that terrorism under the guise of religion contradicts the fundamental teachings of both faiths.

"The killing of innocent civilians by terrorists under the guise of religion is a condemnable and cruel irreligious act that defiantly contradicts both Muslim and Christian beliefs," said the joint statement.

The declaration emerged following a two-day dialogue for peace held in Cotabato City from January 16 to 17 to address concerns about the durability of the peace process among Christian and Muslim communities in Mindanao and allay the anxieties of many students and families not only in Marawi but also throughout the entirety of Mindanao.

The joint statement was signed by His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo (Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Cotabato), Most Reverend Angelito Lampon (Archdiocese of Cotabato), Most Reverend Antonio Ledesma (Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro), Most Reverend Edwin de la Peña (Bishop of the Prelature of Marawi), Pastor Brayan Saguban (River of God/Evangelical Denomination), Bangsamoro Darul-Ifta Executive Director Emran Mohamad, Islamic Jurist Dr. Muhammad Nadzir Ebil (Bangsamoro Darul Ifta), and Datu Mussolini Lidasan, executive director of Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia - Ateneo de Davao University.

Prominent religious leaders in Mindanao hold a two-day dialogue in Cotabato City on January 16-17, 2024 to address concerns about the resilience of the peace process among Christian and Muslim communities in Mindanao and alleviate anxieties among students and families across Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of HWPL Philippines)

Bishop de la Peña conveyed the impact of the dialogue, particularly among the Christian settlers of Marawi, stating, "Now the people in my area who experienced so much trauma and so much pain can now rejoice over the fact that the religious leaders of the Bangsamoro are one with us so we can move on."

The religious leaders also emphasized the need to be proactive against similar terrorist acts by imparting to their constituencies the true teachings of religious traditions and sacred scriptures.

The religious leaders likewise underscored the importance of proactively countering terrorism by imparting the true teachings of religious traditions and sacred scriptures to their constituents. Furthermore, they reaffirmed their commitment to the principles and objectives of the peace process between the Bangsamoro and the Government of the Philippines, fostering a collective responsibility and renewed dedication to achieving enduring peace.

Recognizing the efficacy of inter-religious dialogues in establishing a culture of peace, mutual respect, and understanding, the leaders pledged to continue conducting religious exchanges. Their commitment extends to bringing these dialogues to the grassroots level, spreading the culture of peace throughout the entire island of Mindanao.

"We hope to continue this religious dialogue not only among ourselves but down to the grassroots level so that we can spread the culture of peace throughout the island of Mindanao," said Archbishop Ledesma.

The dialogue and subsequent signing of the joint statement were facilitated by the international NGO Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) Philippines and supported by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. (APB/PIA-10 Lanao del Sur)

About the Author

Apipa Bagumbaran

Assistant Regional Head

Region 10

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