Mindanao religious leaders adopt pope's Abu Dhabi document

'Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together' should be seen as a code of conduct, they say
Mindanao religious leaders adopt pope's Abu Dhabi document

Religious leaders in Mindanao hold a conference on 'Walking and Working Together for Reconciliation and Unity' at the Ateneo de Davao University on Aug. 14. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)

ucanews.com reporter, Davao City
August 20, 2019
Religious leaders in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao adopted a document last week, endorsed by Pope Francis early this year, to foster mutual understanding among different faiths.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic bishops' conference, said he would recommend the country's Catholic prelates adopt the document as a "code of conduct."

Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar, issued the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” during the pontiff's visit to Abu Dhabi.

A gathering of Christian and Muslim leaders was held in Davao City last week in the wake of recent bomb attacks in Sulu and Zamboanga provinces.

Jesuit priest Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao University, described the document as "remarkable" because it is the product of dialogue.

The priest noted the long-standing "history of conflict, violence and war" between Muslims and Christians despite the fact that "both believe in one God of Compassion."

"Dialogue promotes a culture of tolerance and reduces economic, social, political, and environmental problems," said Father Tabora.

Carlito Galvez Jr., the government's peace adviser, said the document "would help prevent the recurrence of armed conflict and the spread of violent extremism" in the region.

"We will use this document as a basis for our agency’s interventions," said the former military general.

The Mindanao meeting, which carried the theme "Working and Walking Together for Healing and Reconciliation," aimed to gather suggestions on how to address peace and security concerns.

Professor Moner Bajunaid, secretary-general of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, said religious diversity in the Philippines should be a basis for dialogue.

"This work of attaining peace through dialogue should be a continuous endeavor," he said, adding that, "there is a need to make this more dynamic."

"We should bear in mind that we do not only have two religions. We should be careful not to touch on each other’s sensibilities," he said.

Father Tabora, meanwhile, noted the timeliness of the document’s release in relation to the ratification of a peace deal between the Philippine government and Moro rebels in Mindanao.

"The ratification [of the peace agreement] was a historic ‘yes’ to peace in Mindanao and in the Philippines between Muslims and Christians who had been at enmity with each other for centuries," said the priest.

After four decades of war, the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front eventually hammered out a comprehensive peace agreement in 2014.

Residents of predominantly Muslim regions in Mindanao ratified the deal with the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in January that paves the way for the creation of a new Muslim autonomous region.

The new Muslim region is envisioned to have broader autonomy, more powers and resources, and larger territory than its predecessor.

"An arduous peace process determined that the historical injustice committed against the Bangsamoro could be righted," said Father Tabora.

The priest highlighted the major declarations made by Pope Francis and Al-Tayyeb in the document that included "the adoption of a culture of dialogue is the path, mutual cooperation is the code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding is the method and standard."

The document also calls for the protection of places of worship — synagogues, churches and mosques — during times of conflict.

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