Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dialogue among Christians & Muslims (Silsilah Forum)

This afternoon, from 2 to 5 pm, members of the Davao chapter of the Silsilah dialogue movement gathered at the Redemptorist monastery. Several Muslim Imams and Ustadz, together with a Muslim youth leader attended. Two priests, a seminarian and a religious sister also joined, as well as member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. All those who attended have gone through the Silsilah Christian-Muslim Dialogue seminar in Zamboanga.

We started with an opening prayer - led by Imam Diong (for the Muslim side) and me (for the Christian side). The Bible and the Quran were prominently placed at the center. Then we shared our feelings and views about the recent developments in Mindanao, about the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), and the resurgence of violence following the stopping of the signing by the Supreme Court.

The Muslims in the Forum were horrified and saddened by the killings of innocent Christian civilians perpetrated by some MILF units under Commanders Bravo and Kato. They said that it was un-Islamic and must be condemned. This has contributed to the breakdown of the peace process. The Christians in the Forum also expressed their concerns about the ongoing military operations against some MILF units that has led to collateral damage among Muslim civilians. We lamented the emergence of the Ilagas - the Christian vigilantes, and the danger that it could turn the whole thing into a Christian-Muslim conflict.

We prayed and hope that the peace process will continue and the ceasefire be observed. We all agreed that any peace agreement should respect the rights of all the peoples in Mindanao - Muslims, Lumad and Christians. Since God is the creator of everything, the land and resources of Mindanao should be shared by all and not monopolized by one group. Any agreement on ancestral domain should take into consideration the claims of the Lumad or Indigenous peoples and the fact that there are already many Christians living in Mindanao. Thus, there should be extensive consultation and participation before any final agreement is reached.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Evening with the Davao Redemptorist Youth Mission Team

Last night, I celebrated the Eucharist with 15 members of the Davao Redemptorist Youth Mission Team - the DRYM team. We started at 7:30 pm and ended at 9:45 pm. What made the liturgy long was the sharing after the Gospel. They shared about their experiences of evangelizing and organizing young people in the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the parish - the joys and the sorrows and their experience of God's presence.

I am very pleased by the missionary dynamism of these young people. Some of them are still finishing college while others are already working as teachers and nurses, yet they are still able to set aside time for mission among young people in our parish. This for me is indeed a sign of hope.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Joy to Grief - From Breakthrough to Breakdown

The other week, when I first heard the news that the MILF and the Government were about to sign a memorandum of agreement about the ancestral domain issue, I was filled with joy. I thought that this was a breakthrough in the peace process. But I was concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation especially about the content of the MOA. I had also suspicions about the real agenda of President Arroyo, since the MOA required charter change in order to implement it. After the Supreme Court stopped the signing of the MOA the trouble began.

What was supposed to be a breakthrough for peace has turned into a breakdown. The MILF violated the ceasefire agreement by attacking and occupying towns in Cotabato and Lanao. A lot of attrocities have been committed. Old people and children were not spared. There were two bombing in my hometown in Iligan City. Last night I talked with my sister in Iligan and she told me that there was panic in the city. My other sister and her family have evacuated to a safer place because of the fear that their area will soon be attacked.

I am deeply saddened and disappointed at this turn of events. And to think that last week, seven bishops headed by Archbishop Capalla met with seven MILF representatives headed by Monagher Iqbal. They even came out with the statement saying that "both the MILF and the bishops reiterate their unwavering moral commitment to pursue the path to peace, solidarity, justice and development in Mindanao and resolve and support the continuation of the peace proc ess between the MILF and the government until its successful conclusion is achieved."

The recent development has opened old wounds especially among the Christians who have been affected by this senseless violence. It has also reinforced old prejudices that the Moro cannot be trusted to keep his word, or that even if you have become his friend he will betray you. This could escalate once again into a Christian-Muslim conflict. This is unfortunate. Without the support of the people at the grassroots, any MOA or peace agreement will be useless.

What I find reassuring is many Muslim leaders have also condemned the MILF attacks. I hope that the MILF leadership will really investigate the field commanders whom they claim acted without authorization and make them answerable for the attrocities. Otherwise, they will lose the trust and goodwill that have been generated over the years. The peace process will not prosper.

I keep on hoping and praying for peace in Mindanao.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Relaxing Underwater

Yesterday was our monthly community recreation. We went over to our beach house in Dasag, Samal Island. I spent an hour scuba diving. It was very peaceful and relaxing underwater. But the seascape is no longer as beautiful as it was nine years ago when I started diving here. It was like an underwater garden then - very colorful and lots of fish. This time the corals are bleaching - they are dying and turning white & grey. There are few fish. I remember watching Al Gore's documentary "The Incovenient Truth" the other night with the community. He said that one of the effects of global warming is that coral reefs are bleaching. What I saw under the sea seems to verify this.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Priest/Professor

5:00 am - Rise
5:15 - Personal Prayer/Meditation
6:15 - Tai-chi
6:45 - Faith Sharing (with senior Redemptorist Confreres)
7:30 - breakfast
9:00 - Class (Pastoral Leadership & Management)
12:00 - Lunch
1:00 pm - Personal Prayer/Meditation
2:00 - Spiritual Reading
3:00 - Writing: Book project (Vision of a Renewed Church)
4:00 - Homily preparation
5:00 - running (marathon training)
7:00 - BEC Mass (Spring Valley), followed by dinner with BEC leaders & members
9:15 - Journal writing/Review powerpoint presentation for next day's class (fundamental theology)
10:40 - Personal Prayer/Examination of Conscience
11:00 - Bedtime