Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peace Forum, Running & Biking for Peace in Lanao

Yesterday, I attended a Peace Forum which was held at the Crystal Inn in Iligan City. This forum was one of the activities of the "Campaign for Understanding & Peace" sponsored by the Civil Society Organizations-Ranaw in partnership with the Mindanao People's Caucus with he support of the GoP-UNDP Act for Peace Programme. The objectives of the campaign are the following:

-To raise the level of people's awareness on the impact of the conflict based on the perspective of the affected communines and its great cost in terms of psycho-social, economic and physical damage

- To inform people of the continuing efforts to strengthen Muslim-Christian relations despite the challenges

- To encourage community leaders and members to participate in the efforts to promote peace and in resolving conflict.

Besides the Peace Forum in Iligan yesterday, there were other activities this morning:

6:00 - 7:00 am Run & Bike for Peace within Iligan City (with Fr. Robert Reyes the running priest and me -the cycling priest) - from MSU-IIT to Pryce Plaza. I biked beside Fr. Reyes and some runners.

7:00 am - 11 am - Bike & Caravan for Peace from Iligan to Kolambugan (I was accompanied by 25 Iligan bikers and followed by a peace caravan). We stopped over at the Lapayan- a place attacked by MILF- and amidst the ruins we prayed for the victims.

Two kilometers before Kolambugan, we slowed down and followed Fr. Reyes, the Mayor of Kolambugan (Bertrand Lumaque) and those in the Peace Caravan who started walking to the poblacion.

A Peace Forum was conducted at the Gym from 1:30- 4:30 in the afternoon, attended by the residents of this town that was recently attacked by the MILF.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reunion (the survivors)

In 1968, we started our priestly formation at the St. Alphonsus' Minor Seminary. We were fourteen years old and there were 28 in our class. Only three were ordained priests - Fr. Senen Javier, Fr. Claro Conde and I.

So forty years later, the three of us came together celebrate and to reminisce. Fr. Senen and I are assigned here in Davao as part of the theology faculty. Fr. Claro Conde is now parish priest in the Isle of Wight, England. He came home to celebrate the death anniversary of his father death and so we invited him to Davao. Our last "reunion" was in Rome fourteen years ago.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Facilitating a Clergy Retreat

For the last three days, I have been facilitating the retreat of the clergy of the diocese of Baguio which was held here in Davao at the Rivier Retreat House. There were 38 priests led by their bishop, Most Rev. Carlito Cenzon, who attended the retreat. The retreat ended this evening.

The theme of the retreat is the same one that I used for the retreat of the Clergy of Infanta the other month - "Priestly Ministry in relation to Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Seminar-Workshop on Prayer & Spirituality for Young People

Today, from 9 am to 5:30 pm, I conducted a seminar-workshop on Prayer & Spirituality to the youth in our parish (Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish). There were over 70 who attended, mostly leaders and members of the core-group coming from the various BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities).
There were 4 sessions with the following topics:
1. Why we need to pray
- the fruits of prayer
- the spiritual, psyscho-somatic dimension of prayer & meditation
2. When, where and how we pray
finding time and space for prayer
methods/forms of prayer & meditation
- praying with the body
- praying the rosary - meditation on the story of Jesus with Mary
- lectio divina
- centering prayer
- contemplation on an icon/image of Jesus
- prayer of petition, thanksgiving,
- examination of conscience & seeking forgiveness
- conversational prayer
- prayer & visualization
- music & prayer
- combining forms/methods
3. Praying with others - Social, Communitarian & Ecclesial Dimension of Prayer
-Why we need to pray together
-Forms of community prayer
- Liturgical Prayer
4. Spirituality of Communion, A Holistic & Integral Spirituality
- Communion with God, one another, nature
- Integrating prayer/contemplation with action (loving service, proclamation)
We ended the seminar with a, celebration of the Eucharist. In my homily I explained to the participants the meaning of the Eucharist and why we need to celebrate it together constantly.
(I was amazed by interest of the young people who attended the workshop. They were not at all bored. They were very attentive and they actively participated in the various forms of prayer that we tried. It just confirms that there is a hunger among young people for spirituality. It is a hunger that the Church must respond to. Otherwise, they will just turn to other religious traditions to learn how to pray and meditate.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fasting for Peace during the Month of Ramadan

For 24 hours, I won't be eating anything. I am praying and fasting for peace amidst the escalating armed conflict in central and western Mindanao during the month of Ramadan. I will be doing this every Friday, starting today. I will still be fasting on the other days of the week but it will be the traditional Catholic type of fasting - this means eating only one meal a day.

I am saddened by the turn of events. The government has abandoned the peace negotiation with the MILF due to the attacks and atrocities perpetrated by two units of the MILF on civilians. There is an ongoing hunt for these groups. The bombings carried out against the MILF positions has collateral damage. There are civilians - both Muslims and Christians - in various evacuation centers. The Philippine military has vowed that there would be no let down on their operations even during the month of the Ramadan. Meanwhile, Christian vigilante groups have sprouted to defend themselves from MILF attacks. I am concerned that this can turn into a Christian-Muslim conflict.

There is nothing much I can do. I feel so helpless in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation. I cannot bike for peace across the war-torn areas - the classes have already started and besides I am afraid to be caught in the cross-fire. So I can only fast and pray.

Being a Christian, I am observing a fast to express my solidarity with Muslims in Mindanao who are fasting today. Way back in the 1980s, the late Bishop Benny Tudtud of the Prelature of Marawi and the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference introduced the "Duyog Ramadan." It was an invitation for Christians to reach out to the Muslims during the Ramadan in order to engage in a dialogue of life and faith. It was during the height of the armed conflict between the MNLF and the government. Today, I am doing the same. As I fast, I also remember in a special way theMuslims who have become close to me - my friends and partners in dialogue whom I consider my "relatives", not by blood, but by a common faith in the One God - the God of Abraham (Ibrahim), Isaac, Ishmael and Jacob. The God whom Jesus (Isa ibn Maryam, al Masih, al Nabi) calls Father. The same God that Muhammad (pbuh) worshipped.

As I fast, I also pray that that this armed conflict will not worsen Christian-Muslim relations. Above all I pray that it will stop. This war has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

I pray that President Arroyo will have more patience and not allow these attacks, which the MILF leadership denied ordering, to scuttle the peace negotiations. May she not make impossible pre-conditions (such as disarmament, demobilization or integration) for talks to continue. These are supposed to be discussed at the later phase of the negotiations once agreement has been reached.

I pray that the MILF leadership show convincing proof that it is investigating and intend to punish the local MILF commanders responsible for the atrocities. May they not make the signing of the MOA-AD a precondition for peace negotiations to continue. May the become aware that majority of Filipinos cannot accept the dismemberment of the nation as the cost for peace.

I pray that Christians and Muslims and Lumads learn to accept that the land and all its resources belong to God and should be shared by all - by this generation and the next. "There is enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed."

What is needed is an all-out peace, not an all-out war. May the new peace panel be reconstituted soon. This what I am praying and fasting for.

Government leaders and politicians who live in safety and comfort in Manila should think about people in Mindanao who are the ones to face the consequences of an all-out war policy.