Philippine Muslims, Christians build bridges over dinner

Charity event in Manila looks to remove fears and mistrust Christians have of Islam
Philippine Muslims, Christians build bridges over dinner

Muslims and Christians attend a charity dinner initiated by church and human rights groups in Manila on June 8. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Muslim and Christian groups in Manila held a charity dinner on June 8 to promote peace and fight what they described as anti-Islamic sentiments.

The event included a discussion on the security situation in the southern Philippines and "prejudices against Islam" especially in the Mindanao region.

Amirah Lidasan, secretary-general of the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, said the activity was designed to foster unity and encourage inter-faith dialogue.

"We want to show that despite our differences, Muslims and Christians have a lot of things to share because we are all people of faith," said Lidasan.

She said the rise of "religious extremism among misguided Muslims" and the "projection in media that Muslims are terrorists" fuels mistrust and fear of them.

Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, chairman of the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum said what fuels this fear and mistrust is public ignorance about Islam.

"As followers of Christ, we have to open our hearts and minds to understand other cultures and religions," the prelate said.

"Dialogue leads to understanding and understanding leads to acceptance that would eventually result in peace," he added.

Father Christopher Ablon of the Philippine Independent Church said intolerance of other faiths could be avoided "if we are capable of listening to our neighbors."

"What is lacking is our sense of hearing. We do not listen to them and we perceive their grievances as superfluous," he said.

The priest said the conflict in Marawi in 2017 that resulted in the devastation of the city could have been avoided if government leaders listened to religious and traditional Muslim leaders.

"But instead of listening, the government decided to bomb the city," said Father Ablon.

At the height of the conflict, several Muslim religious leaders volunteered to negotiate with the rebels, by they were turned down by authorities.

The armed conflict lasted five months and resulted in the displacement of at least half a million people, many of whom continue to live in temporary shelters.

Organizers of the event told ucanews.com that the proceeds of the charity dinner will go to organizations helping Marawi victims.

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