The news of bombing in Cotabato a few weeks ago and the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral a few days ago and now a bombing in a Mosque in Zamboanga City makes all of us reflect. I don’t enter into details of the different bombings and the dynamic of these incidents. The reasons behind are different. This is my opinion. It is a mix of political issues and wrong understanding of religion on the part of a few groups, especially related to the incident in Jolo. In fact, for a long time, the threat in the Cathedral of Jolo has always been there. For this reason, among the victims in Jolo, there are also many soldiers who have also been on the watch of the church died.
Jolo, in the past, was a peaceful place and the relation between Muslims and Christians was good, but in more recent times, it has deteriorated to this point. We are not surprised of what happened in Jolo because a long time ago, a group was complaining about the Church in the middle of the city that is composed of a Muslim population. The Zamboanga bombing in the Mosque of Talon-Talon, a small mosque inside a populated area of Zamboanga City is very sad.
Zamboanga City, in the last 5 years, has been peaceful, although often with some “Alert” status. The incident in the Mosque arrived as a surprise considering, that in the city, there are many good efforts in building better relations among Muslims and Christians.
In my long experience in this mission, since 1977 up to now, I have faced the reality of violence to the point that after being a peace negotiator for the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) in my first mission in Zamboanga del Norte, I started in 1984 the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City and I have served the CBCP as the Executive Secretary of the Commission on Interreligious Dialogue , a position that I now perform again and this gives me the opportunity to be in contact with many leaders in the society.
I just arrived from a visit of the bombed Mosque in Zamboanga where 2 died and 4 were wounded. In silence I enter the Mosque to see and pray. Why this incident inside the Mosque and who is behind? Even if we cannot answer the many questions, we have to continue to promote dialogue and peace.
We celebrate the World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) again this year in Mindanao and in the Philippines to tell the World that in Mindanao, there are many who believe in peace and most of the Muslims and Christians are good. What we need is more determination and overcome fear and the stage of prejudices accumulated along the years. At the same time, not to find only solutions of security are needed, especially now. I appeal especially in social media, but also I appeal to religious and political leaders, to be more united beyond the divisions or interests that divide many of them, they can find a common understanding to reach out to those groups who have been wrongly educated and still do violence justified, sometimes, by religious motivations.
Yes, I am in solidarity with all Christians and Muslims who condemn what happened especially in Jolo and Zamboanga City, but I invite all to go beyond the condemnation and each one of us to do what we can do, not only in terms of security, but also in terms of real help putting a part political and economic motivations and move together for the common good.
This is what we have to do and the WIHW 2019 theme reminds us, “Celebrating Truth, Sincerity and Forgiveness”. The real TRUTH, SINCERITY and FORGIVENESS, we cannot achieve, but there is still hope. For this reason we have to celebrate the WIHW 2019.
Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME
Silsilah Dialogue Movement