Quevedo to Ateneo grads: “contribute to peace, correct tragic imbalances in society”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 March) — Mindanao’s first Cardinal urged graduates of the Ateneo de Davao University, whether they are Christians, Muslims or Lumads, to contribute in their own little ways to peace and help correct the “tragic imbalances” in our country.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, OMI, the Archbishop of Cotabato, commencement speaker for Batch 2014, urged the 1,399 graduates to use their Ateneo education “creatively in going beyond self towards the other, to doing justice.”

“Only when in our own little ways can we contribute to peace and correct tragic imbalances in our society can we contribute to the healing of our land,” Quevedo said at the college graduation rites livestreamed from the Ateneo de Davao’s Matina campus on Saturday morning, where he was also conferred a Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa by Ateneo de Davao University President Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ.

“One Ateneo graduate is making a difference in the field of peace,” Quevedo said, referring to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III under whose administration the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels on March 27 in Malacanan.

Final steps to peace

“This Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is one of the final steps towards a lasting peace,” said Quevedo, whose 2003 paper, “Injustice: the Root of Conflict in Mindanao,” has repeatedly been cited by the government and MILF peace panels as well as peace groups and the academe.

In that paper, he cited three injustices committed against the Moro people: injustice to the Moro identity, injustice to Moro political sovereignty and injustice to the Moro integral development.

Quevedo acknowledged that the road to peace is “winding and tortuous” and the “terrain for implementation rocky and rough” and urged Ateneo graduates to do their share in peacebuilding.

“All Ateneans are called to the journey to peace and be partners in implementing the fundamental imperatives for peace expressed in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” said Quevedo, who was president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (1999 to 2001 and 2001 to 2003) when the Estrada administration waged war against the MILF in 2000 and when the Arroyo administration waged by the Buliok war in 2003.

Questions for graduates of Catholic schools

Quevedo spoke about the role of faith during the People Power in EDSA 1986 and among the victims of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

“Faith was at the heart of courage, faith was at the heart of resilience in times of crisis and disasters,” the Cardinal said.

But Quevedo added that the Bishops of the Philippines have observed that “our faith is very much sadly uninformed, prone to superstition, prone to conversion to different religious groups.”

But most of all, he said, “our faith is not applied to our daily life.”

He then asked the Ateneo graduates and graduates of other Catholic schools – “does that Ateneo graduate or the graduate of any Catholic university – UST, La Salle, NDU, does that graduate really have a deep informed faith, committed to doing justice for others?”

“Is the Catholic university graduate really a person for the common good on the basis of his or her religious faith… be they Lumads, Christians, Muslims or believers in other faiths?” the Cardinal who served as President of the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City from 1970 to 1976.

No different from 1991

He called on the graduates to look at the national situation today which he said is “no different from the social situation in 1991” when Bishops of the Philippines noted “three dysfunctions” in the country: “imbalance in politics, imbalance in economics and how these two imbalances are reinforced by negative or ambivalent cultural values.“

Batch 2014’s college graduates were born after 1991.

Quevedo said that in the field of politics, we still see political parties with no ideological foundation and therefore transfer of party allegiance is often, and the inability of poor people to gain power.

He recalled the late Bukidnon Bishop Francisco Claver, a Jesuit, who said that one of the main inadequacies of politics is the “lack of sense of the common good.”

“A politics of pathos and transactional politics. This is the breeding ground of corruption,” he said.

Faith and justice

In the field of economics, Quevedo noted that as in 1991, the widening gap between rich and poor continues in 2014, where a small number of families continue to hold the biggest percentage of the national income.

He added that despite the rosy financial reports about the economy “sometimes I wornder if such reports are manipulated because poor people do not see the so-called success of our economic situation.”

He spoke of divisiveness, tensions, armed conflicts, the absence of peace, gradual destruction of our environment.

“Obviously, we are all responsible for this tragedy of imbalances.”

Quevedo asked: if the country is 85% Catholic, and most of our leaders in business and politics are Catholics, many of them coming from the best Catholic schools in the country, “you make further conclusion in your mind about corruption. Who are corrupt?”

He narrated how a Bishop of a poor country in Asia told him a few years ago that “I wish I could point out to others that your Catholic country is a model for others but unfortunately in your country as in ours, poverty and corruption are high.”

“I could not hold my head high. I had to bow down in shame. I had no answer. I was truly ashamed,” the Cardinal said.

Make a difference

“Our faith is not one that does justice. Our faith is not transformative of the social situation. Our faith is merely limited to our churches, to spiritual things. It does not play a role in public or private life,” he said.

He asked the graduates: “Shall we as Ateneans make a difference in our country or shall we succumb like many others to the temptations of power and money?”

“We have to be agents of change with our faith that does justice. Only when we live and employ our faith, be it faith of Muslim, Catholic, Lumad graduate, we have to employ that informed faith for the sake of the common good.”

He encouraged the graduates to use their intellectual and spiritual gifts for justice, peace for “greater understanding of Mindanao realities, particularly the Bangsamoro issue.” (Carolyn O. Arguilas / MindaNews)