Saturday, February 24, 2007

Christian-Muslim Dialogue of Life and Faith

This afternoon I attended a gathering of Muslims and Christians belonging to the Silsilah Dialogue movement. This is a group that come together occasionally to engage in an ongoing dialogue of life and faith. We prayed together, shared our faith and experiences and ended with a meal - table-fellowship.
I was impressed by the friendship and mutual respect among the members of the group. I liked the sharing of Ustadz Muhammad, a Muslim scholar and religious leader. He talked about Islam as religion of peace and how the terrorists misrepresent true Islam. He spoke about Jesus in a very reverent manner and the need for Christians and Muslims to live in harmony and peace. He seemed to be well versed not only with the Qur'an but also with the Bible.
I also shared my own conviction that Christians and Muslim have so many things in common in spite of differences. We believe in the one God, in Abraham as our father in faith, in Jesus the Son of Mary (Isa ibn Maryam) as the prophet (al Nabi) and the messiah (al Nabi) whose birth was announced by the Angel Gabriel (Jibril), who suffered on the cross, and ascended to heaven and who will come again in the last days. Jesus does not only belong to the Christians but also to the Muslims (although they do not believe in his divinity). Thus, Christians and Muslims are not just neighbors and friends, they are also "relatives."
I have been actively involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue for the last seven years. It started during the height of the armed conflict between the Government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Together with Ustadz Mahmoud Adilao and Monsignor Jimmy Afable, we organized a Caravan for Peace across the war torn area. Over a thousand Christians and Muslims abourd trucks and buses journeyed towards Cotabato and set up a peace camp to pressure the negotiators to come to a peace agreement. During the journey for peace, we prayed together and shared meals together and established a bond among ourselves. Because of that Ustadz Adilao and his family became my close friends. Last year, I visited his home during the Eid Fitr and shared a meal with his family.
Another unforgetable moment was a visit I made to a mosque in Davao. I was accompanied by Sr. Marianella and Zuhaira. We entered the mosque during the midday Friday prayer and stayed at the back and prayed silently. The Imam - Eldio - invited me to speak to the Muslim worshippers after his sermon. I spoke for five minutes about our common religious heritage - the One God, Abraham, Jesus the Son of Mary - and how Christians and Muslims are should live in peace. Afterwards, we went to the home of the Imam for lunch - table-fellowship! Over the years, I have occasionally met the Imam during the various prayer rallies for peace in the city.
Zuhaira (or Pong) has become a very dear friend. She is a Muslim who is not only pretty but also intelligent and kind. We first met in Zamboanga six years ago during a Silsilah intensive seminar. I occasionally go out for dinner with her and Sr. Marianella. She told us that when she get married in a Muslim ceremony, Sr. Marianella and I will be one of the sponsors.
All these experiences have given me a positive regard for Muslims and for Islam. I firmly believe that Christians and Muslim can live in peace and work together for peace.

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