DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 August) – The Presidential Peace Adviser on Wednesday declared before an audience of Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Mindanao that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will adopt “as our primordial document for our peace agenda” the document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” that Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb issued on February 4 this year in Abu Dhabi, during the Pope’s visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Galvez, who served as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) prior to his appointment as Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, also vowed before the leaders who gathered at the Ateneo de Davao University for a conference on “Walking and Working Together for Healing and Reconciliation,” that he would present and give copies of the document to the Cabinet and push for its adoption in the Security Cluster and Inter-Cabinet Cluster Meeting on Normalization and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict
He said he would also ask the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to support the document which raised points that “are all very, very, very important.”
“I will make an appeal to the AFP and the PNP to support this document because I believe this document really says everything for us to live in social harmony and understanding,” he said.
Gift of God to the world, to Mindanao
Religious leaders also vowed to popularize the historic document which Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University, described as “a gift of God to the world, but especially to us here in Mindanao.” (Read Tabora’s presentation)
“For centuries our prayer here has been for lasting peace and a way for our diverse peoples to live together. The document suggests that peace and living together can be found in a deeper appreciation of our shared fraternity,” Tabora said.
Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recalled that while copies were available through the internet, the document “was formally given to us in our second and last meeting of the year that was June-July” as their earlier meeting was in January.
“We have the document,” Valles said, adding “I hope everybody read the document.”
Valles narrated he was struck by Tabora’s presentation on looking at the document as code of conduct.
“Not only principles, but code of conduct, forceful and beautiful code of conduct,” he said.
The Pope and the Grand Imam pointed to the “culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”
“As head of the Conference, I am going to re-introduce that to the CBCP. That’s a promise,” Valles said, as he named various commissions in the CBCP such as Youth, Education, Clergy, Inter-Religious Dialogue, Ecumenism.
He said he is not sure about the other areas but “I am proud to say … (that) among the Mindanao bishops, the Commissions in the national level are replicated in Mindanao.”
“I’ll try my best to reintroduce the document and hoping that the reaction will be (that) we will adopt it as our own code of conduct,” Valles said.
Gift of Mindanao to the world
While the document is “a gift to Mindanao” as Tabora said, many of the things mentioned there have actually been done and are being done in Mindanao.
The document upholds, among others, that “dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.”
It added that “dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here, transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions aim for. It also means avoiding unproductive discussions.”
Praising the presentation of Fr. Roberto Layson on the dialogues of life, action, words and religious experience at the grassroots level, Valles noted that in Mindanao, “we still have the fortune of good memories” and “the beautiful actual programs or actions of what Fr. Bert said, would create good memories.”
“What a miserable thing to work in a dialogue when people have no positive memories, all they have is hatred and biases. But in the Philippines, we continue to work on good memories,” he said.
Layson, head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s Inter-Religious Dialogue ministry, experienced four wars between 1997 and 2003 in Pikit, North Cotabato, has written two books — “In war, the real enemy is war itself” and “Fields of Hope: Stories of Inter-religious Dialogue and Peace-building.”
The first book features stories during the wars and mass evacuations in Pikit; while the second features everyday experiences of grassroots interfaith dialogues in the areas he had been assigned to since he was ordained priest in 1988: in the predominantly Muslim towns of Jolo in Sulu, Bongao in Tawi-tawi, Pikit in North Cotabato, and Datu Piang in Maguindanao. He was also assigned in Senator Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat with a Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) population.
Layson repeatedly said during his presentation that “religion is not a stumbling block; it is a bridge.”
Valles also shared how three of his seminarians who are about to be ordained have good memories of their living with Muslim families in Tibungco district here and how they visited their foster families to announce that they would soon be ordained.
“Good memories, not lectures in seminaries,” he said, adding, “there must something good happening on the ground.”
Prof. Moner Bajunaid, Secretary-General of the National Ulama Cooperation of the Philppines (NUCP), assured the participants that as Secretary-General of the NUCP, “I will raise the tissue of adopting this document and making it as a matter of policy and guide.”
Bajunaid was among those who attended the Abu Dhabi conference in February where the historic document was signed.
The NUCP, he said, has a membership of at least 200 ulama nationwide. The Ulama Summit will be held in November this year.
Bajunaid said dialogue must be dynamic as sometimes it can be boring.
“We have to come up with something new and innovative but always bearing in mind that we are dealing with two religions and bearing in mind na may mga sensibilities ang bawat isa” (that each has its own sensibilities).
Bajunaid expressed hope that people will refrain from using “co-existence” in favor of “pro-existence” because while co-existence sounds good, “when we say co-existence, we don’t necessarily use the word cooperation.” He said it is more of “live and let live” while “pro-existence” connotes concern for the other.
Peace agenda 5 and 6
“I’m so happy we have this kind of dialogue wherein we can put a venue on how we could solve our problem. I am very happy that I will commit myself that the document on ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.’ The OPAPP will adopt it as our primordial document for our peace agenda 5 and 6. This will be our main covenant that we will use in solving horizontal problems,” Galvez said.
Number 5 of the Duterte Administration’s Peace and Development Agenda is “Conflict Prevention and Management and implementation of peace-promoting catch-up socio-economic development in conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable areas” while 6 is “Building a Culture of Peace and Sensitivity towards positive peace and sustainable human development.”
Layson described two kinds of peace processes: the vertical and the horizontal. He cited the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process as vertical and the horizontal peace process as the grassroots level or person to person level that involves healing broken relationships.
“The Bangsamoro Organic Law Is the solution of the vertical conflict but now I know the solution for personal conflict is the document on human fraternity,” Galvez said.
“I am looking forward to the document on human fraternity that will be our document in order to solve horizontal conflicts,” Galvez said, adding Layson’s presentation “is an eye opener for us that while we are concentrating on the transition in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, we should also concentrate on the horizontal (peace process).”
“Though we are having a good transition in the BARMM, we still have … delicate situations on the different feuds of the politicians and also the different conflicts especially on land,” Galvez said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)