Jesuit praises teachers, peace workers
Urges Catholic educational establishments to become effective channels of peace communication
Jesuit priest Albert Alejo, a peace activist and member of the government peace panel, said on April 10 that Catholic schools should inform the people and make them peace advocates and peace-builders.
"Schools, colleges and universities, acknowledged as neutral agents of change, can play a strategic and leadership role in helping craft a Mindanao peace roadmap, build broad support around it, and provide timely assessments and inputs as to its implementation," the priest said, quoting lawyer Benny Bacani of Notre Dame University of Cotabato City.
But before Catholic institutions and Catholic educational centers can become effective channels of peace communication, they have to acknowledge their role in the "historical marginalization" of minority groups in Mindanao, he said.
"The Catholic Church in general and Catholic educational institutions in particular are weighed down by 'baggage' as a repository of confessional and historical bias against Muslims and lumads (tribal people)," said Father Alejo.
He said the success of peace-building programs of Catholic educational institutions "must be gauged on how they move Christians into admitting that they play a part in the historical marginalization of minority groups and that there can be no just resolution to the Mindanao conflicts without their support."
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro pointed out that at the heart of the peace efforts in Mindanao is the unseen and sometimes unacknowledged and unappreciated work of volunteers.
He said peace volunteers are "the heart of the community," adding that they do the much of the work for the propagation of the "Gospel of Peace." The bishop said that without volunteers, the government, and even the Church, will be crippled.
Father Alejo said it is very important for Catholic educational institutions to develop a program to train people in dialogue.
"Much of education is monologue, or debate. While we have debating teams, we do not have dialogue clubs," he said, adding that people trained in dialogue will be very effective in achieving peace.
The priest said that while governments and revolutionary groups sign peace agreements, the people have the "burden and the joy" of rebuilding schools and houses, "bridging gaps across mindsets, healing painful memories, and appeasing the spirits of the land."
Father Alejo and Archbishop Ledesma spoke during the 4th National Volunteers Summit in Cagayan de Oro on Sunday.
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