DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 September) — Extremism should not be identified with religion itself, Mindanao’s lone Cardinal and the chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said in the panel discussion “Terrorism Denies God” during the “Thirst for Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue” conference in Assisi, Italy last week.
“Pope Francis has spoken of extremists in various religions. We should not identify extremism with religion itself,” Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato, said. His fellow panelist, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the MILF “has always been following and adhering to the true teachings of Islam, the religion of peace.” (speeches in separate file)
Quevedo listed four lessons from Pope Francis on the issue of terrorism.
“We should not identify extremism with religion itself,” the Cardinal said, adding that while it is “well nigh impossible to dialogue with religious extremists, the path of dialogue remains the path to peace and harmony.”
The second lesson he cited is the “need to overcome the global indifference to bombings in different parts of the world as well as the violent persecution of Christians.”
“We seem to take notice of and denounce bombings by terrorists only when they happen in cities of the developed world. There seems to be a tragic indifference when they happen in Thailand or Malaysia or Indonesia or the Philippines,” he said.
The third lesson is the call for both intra-religious and inter-religious dialogue “so that religious beliefs are not distorted and God’s name is not invoked for the sake of violence.”
The fourth lesson, he said, is for world powers “to act in concert to respond to the menace of terrorism.”
“Active solidarity with victims of terrorism is a gift from the God of compassion of mercy. This is the call of the hour for humanity in the face of terrorism,” Quevedo noted.
In his talk, Quevedo narrated how the Abu Sayyaf, listed by the United Nations and the United States and Europe as a “terorrist” organiztaion, “have been on a rampage of killings, assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, extortion, and drug trafficking.”
Muslims in the Philippines have condemned the Abu Sayyaf for its “un-Islamic” acts, betraying the tenets of Islam and distorting the Qur’an.
In recent years, beheading of its captives has become more frequent.
“Their behavior and actuations deny God. They are practical atheists,” Quevedo said. One reason for this, he noted, is “inadequate knowledge of the Qur’an.”
Quevedo recalled that a kidnap victim, the wife of an American Protestant missionary, “told how in her interaction with the (Abu Sayyaf) she observed their lack of knowledge regarding the Qur’an,” Quevedo said, but added that “similarly, many Christians do not know the Bible very well.”
Another reason, he added, is their “selective knowledge and understanding of the Qur’an. They do not fully understand the fundamental belief that Islam is a religion of peace and not a religion of external jihad against infidels. They do not fully comprehend the Qur’an as a their divine revelation of compassion and mercy,” he said.
“As a result they ignore the ‘Common Word’ in the Qur’an, the word of love of God and love of neighbor about which Muslim scholars all over the world wrote to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders as a foundation for peace and harmony,” Quevedo said.
For Murad, Islam “has nothing to do with any terroristic or un-Islamic activities. Islam commands its followers to be kind and recognizes humanity regardless of religious affiliations.”
“Islam promotes and desires peace, with justice and dignity, for all human beings. It encourages peaceful life with all citizens without prejudice. One principle that Islam promotes is good relationship with different religion and culture, to establish harmonious relationship in the community. It is my strong conviction that all other Religions of the World share and conform to such principles,” he said.
He ssiad the search for peace has “ignored one primordial factor to make peace possible: The search for Justice.”
“For, indeed, peace is not only the absence of conflict but the preponderance of justice. In a nutshell, there can only be lasting peace if there is justice and thus peace is underpinned by justice,” he said. (MindaNews)