CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY , Philippines – Christian and Muslim leaders based here came together in time for the World Interfaith Harmony Week to renounce the recent bombings in some parts of Mindanao as they urged the people to unite in the face of violence which many feared was aimed at sowing sectarian discord.
During an interfaith prayer rally held at the Divisoria area in downtown Cagayan de Oro Saturday morning, religious and secular leaders issued statements condemning the explosions inside and near the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu while a holy mass ongoing on Jan. 27, and inside the Masjid Kamahardikaan in Logoy Diutay, Barangay Talon-Talong, Zamboanga City on Jan. 30.
The activity was organized by the Interfaith Forum for Peace, Harmony and Solidarity composed of officials from different Christian denominations and Islamic institutions. The World Interfaith Harmony Week is being observed every Feb. 1-7.
At least 22 people were killed and injured 123 others in the Jolo explosions, while the attack in Zamboanga claimed the lives of two individuals and wounded three persons.
Msgr. Rey Monsanto, a Roman Catholic priest, said there was a sense of fear among the church’s clergy that these attacks would spark more conflict following the bombings.
“We were apprehensive that Christians and Muslims will begin blaming each other and that this will escalate into a religious war, which will then lead to the death of what we have worked for – peace and unity in Mindanao,” Monsanto said.
Once this happens, he said, those who spread terrorism that use religion as their excuse to wage war will win.
But Monsanto said “terrorism has no religion. They will use religion for their evil work. We are praying that what happened will not result to blaming each other and that terrorism will be eliminated.”
In fact, he said, they added a theme for this year’s observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week – “Let peace reign; we are one Mindanao despite our differences and faith.”
“We are one people living in Mindanao even though we belong to different religions. And let us show them that [these attacks] are not the action of a true ‘lumad,’ of a true Muslim, and of a true Christian. Let us show to them that our religions are religions of peace,” the priest added.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma has expressed the same view saying that the bombings may “disturb the peace process that started with the ratification of the [Bangsamoro Organic Law].”
The attacks occurred just days after the voters in the core territories of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) took part in the plebiscite that would ratify RA 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), on Jan. 21.
The ratification would pave the way for the creation of a new political entity that will replace ARMM, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“I am urging you that we must not follow the path to violence but to the path of peace for all,” Ledesma said.
Quoting an official statement from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Abdulnasser Masorong, NCMF-10 regional director, said “any act of violence against one citizen of the State is an act of violence against the whole nation, regardless of religion, despite political affiliations.”
“These bombings had killed and injured Filipinos, and the masterminds behind these acts have caused harm to the entire nation in a divisive effort to further widen the gap between Muslims and Christians,” Masorong said.
He said “neither religion condones acts which cause harm and death to those who want peace, to those who came to worship God. Let us just take it as what it is, criminal acts against the Republic of the Philippines.”
For his part, Alec Mohammad, an official of the United Ulama 10 based in this city, said the attacks were “an act of cowardice, a malicious intent to undermine and strain the long and harmonious relationship and bond [among] Muslims, Christians and Lumad.”
Mohammad said the violence “will not break the spirit of the long-standing relationship” among Mindanao’s peoples.(davaotoday.com)