BALINTATAW: Winds Shaping a New World By Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/13 March) — It was no accident that the winners for the Peace Nobel Laureate in 2007 were the former US Vice President Al Gore and the UN Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC.  They were honored for their work and advocacy to raise global consciousness on global warming.

This was followed by a “pilgrimage” of a group of prominent religious leaders under the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew, in the middle of “nowhere” somewhere in Iceland.  They went there to see the impact of global warming in the mass of glaciers.  They came; they saw; and they were shocked! The great melt down of the glaciers threatens the survival not only of the human race but the very life of the planet.

We are now all considered “endangered species” either by inundation or by hunger. The Patriarch said:  ‘we have to rethink not only our sense of sin but also our sense of morality. On the issue of global warming, at stake is NOT individual lives or single or group of nations but the entire planet!’

Global warming constitutes the new wind that calls for a new relationship – a new solidarity for all peoples across political and ideological boundaries, across cultures and religions.

The second wind is the movement within the UN that calls for ‘Alliance of Civilizations’. The founding of the Alliance of Civilizations was held in Madrid in January 2008.  I had the privilege to address the Assembly in my capacity as one of the representatives of CSO and NGO accredited at the UN.

The wind continues to gather nations and civil society enjoining all for greater tolerance and understanding as they explore joint activities and programs, cooperative agreements and partnerships for peace and development across cultures, especially in the areas of youth, education, migration and the media.

The third wind is the call to dialogue that has become very important with the emergence of a consciousness coming from the publication in the mid 1990s of the seminal work of Prof. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

Prof. Huntington contends that the fundamental source of conflict in the postmodern world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic.  He believes that the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. The new divisions in the world are defined not in terms of their political or economic systems or in terms of their level of economic development but rather in terms of their culture and civilizations.

In the light of this consciousness, I invite all to read the famous 2007 Ramadan letter entitled, Common Word, with 138 signatories that speak of weight, influence and scholarship.

This Letter is a very important step in dialogue between Christians and Muslims.  Often Christians have taken the initiative regarding dialogue, and they have so done well. It is important that this first step continues in this direction with increased clarity, even showing differences and the need for correction.

The Letter is addressed to various leaders of the Christian world. But it is, certainly, also addressed to Muslims, even if not explicitly.  What weight will it bring to bear in the Muslim world, considering that “extremists” continue to kill, persecute and kidnap in the name of religion?

I believe that with time this Letter can create an opening and a greater convergence on the more delicate issues of religious freedom, the absolute value of human rights, the relationship between religion and society, the use of violence, in short, current issues that worry all believers in our world today.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Balintataw is Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado’s column for the weekly Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City)