Interfaith dialogs

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

AT THE Vatican recently, Pope Francis embraces divided Middle East leaders and presides over Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers in an unabashed effort to revive stalemated peace talks.

The Pope invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to join him in a prayer encounter, an unprecedented gesture toward non-Christian faiths.

In Mindanao, Muslims and Christians recently met at the two-day International Conference on Peace, Religions and Culture in Dialogue at Notre Dame University, Cotabato City. The Community of Sant Egidio of Rome hosted the event.


Joining the conference were Islamic Indonesian Association Muhammadiyah and the Archdiocese of Cotabato, the national government, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and Moro National Liberation Front representatives.

"We have a dream," says the Muslim and Christian youth participants. “That the new generations of this beautiful country may discover the joy of living together. We will not allow anyone to steal away this dream and will continue working everyday because peace is living together."

In Murcia, Negros Occidental, there is a different kind of interfaith dialogs. This time, among various Christian denominations.

I'm sure they also have a dream for Murcia, the reason for Christians to close ranks, in this case, to combat illegal drug and illegal gambling.

The Murcia Inter-Denominational Ministers Forum requested Bacolod Diocesan Catholic Bishop Vicente Navarra to extend the terms of Fr. Greg Patiño and Fr. Agustin Hinayan as assigned priests of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Murcia.

"We express our collective stand in support," said the evangelical pastors in their letters, "of the resolute advocacy on the illegalities in our local community. We stand as your yolk fellow, accentuating our moral and spiritual obligations to further the good of the community."

The pastors who signed the letter to the bishop are Rev. Arsenal Llamas Jr., Rev. Rene Bajalan, Rev. Peter Alcantara, Rev. Jimmy Villegas Jr., Rev. Danilo Zapanta, Rev. Pepito Belonio, Rev. Renato Marina, Rev. Artemio Magallanes, and Rev. Adonis Naturales.

The letter of appeal came as a response to the Municipal Council of Murcia's resolution asking the bishop to replace the two priests amid their conflict with the municipal officials against these vices.

Last week, the Murcia Municipal Council unanimously passed a resolution asking Navarra for the transfer of both priests out of Murcia. Both priests tackle the evils of these illegal activities during their sermons.

The resolution states that the two priests stained the image of Murcia because of their projection that it has become a haven of illegal drugs and illegal gambling.

Obviously, though, the illegal drugs and gambling issues are more than Christian concerns. Their ill-effects affect not just the different faith communities but the entire Murcia population, not to mention its surrounding cities and towns.

If these vices are indeed rampant, the situation behooves our local governments and the National Bureau of Investigation to stamp them out. It would require the participation and cooperation of all, including those in the conflict divide of Mayor Andrew Montelibano versus Reverend Fathers Patiño and Hinayan, and the other pastors.

More than hitting them in blind items during sermons, may our religious leaders help pinpoint the masterminds of these twin illegal activities. And more important, to heed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle who said, "The Church is a church of salvation, not damnation."

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 11, 2014.


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