PEACETALK: Open letter: Love is the Answer

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 25 December) — Thirty years ago, on May 20, 1992, Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME, an active member of Silsilah Dialogue Movement was killed in Zamboanga City. He was a close friend of mine.

A movement identified as Abu Sayyaf also started to operate in Zamboanga at the beginning of the 1990s and the leaders of this group were from Zamboanga City and nearby areas. This group with the support of other groups and leaders convinced to protect Islam from some forms of “deviation” started to operate in Zamboanga with killings and bombing. At that time some of these leaders also planned to stop the emerging Movement of Christian-Muslim Dialogue identified as Silsilah and the Abu Sayyaf helped them to act according to some plans to stop Silsilah.  At that time Silsilah was already a visible sign of dialogue among Christians and Muslims. Thus, they decided to discourage the members of Silsilah and killed Fr. Salvatore, on the night of May 20, 1992. This killing happened during the summer course of Silsilah conducted, at the time, in a school near Fort Pilar. Fr. Salvatore was alone in the car going toward the PIME house and was killed by a man on a motor cycle.

Since the beginning, Silsilah members and the family of Fr. Salvatore expressed words of forgiveness and, together, all the members of Silsilah, Christians and Muslims, promised to continue the Mission saying: Padayon!” (Move on). That was the time when the Movement became stronger even among many difficulties. We and many others did not forget that page of history of Silsilah and any time we find difficulties we say: “Padayon!”

Celebrating the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines we have also recognized many dark pages in the history of these 500 years committed by different actors and groups from different sectors of society and religions, including Christianity and Islam. We wish to encourage all to treasure and find strength in the martyrdom of Fr. Salvatore.

Silsilah has been able to move on since that time and now is  known in the Philippines and other parts of the world as a sign of hope. There are now many good signs of Muslim and Christian dialogue in the Philippines in the midst of increasing forms of violence colored and justified by some religious obligations. To remember Fr. Salvatore as a martyr of dialogue in this time can be a sign of hope and courage for us and many who suffer because of divisions and conflicts, also because of their identity and belief. Silsilah has continued to move since that time. From that time on other martyrs of dialogue have shed their blood, some of them also alumni of Silsilah as Bishop Ben De Jesus in Jolo, Fr. Roel Gallardo in Basilan, and Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda in Tawi-Tawi area.

May this open letter help to give courage to those who are afraid to start or to continue to be in dialogue, especially among Muslims and Christians. The road is still long, but we have to believe that with the grace of God we can move together believing that LOVE IS THE ANSWER.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Fr. Sebastiano D’ambra, PIME is founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and Executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission of Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines)