Manila (Agenzia Fides) – “We hope Ramadan will be a time for dialogue to move forward. In Mindanao Ramadan is deeply felt and celebrated by the local Muslims. Today many Muslims live in poverty and this challenges us Christians to show solidarity with generous charity. In southern Philippines Ramadan can be a time to increase efforts for peace ”. Father Eliseo Mercado, head of the Justice and Peace Office of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate in Mindanao. Father Mercado sent a message for Ramadan to local Muslim leaders expressing full solidarity towards the Muslim brothers and sisters. “In the month of Ramadan – he wrote in the message – Muslims learn to make peace in themselves and with their neighbours. This is a month of sacrifice, discipline, compassion for the needy. We assure you of our spiritual closeness”.
On the large island of Mindanao the month of Ramadan – one of the four pillars of Islam – will be highly significant: local Muslim leaders, are convinced it will serve for contemplation with regard to the future. Thanks to the mediation of Malaysia peace talks between the government and Muslim separatist rebels should resume soon. At present informal talks are paving the way for official negotiations.
In the meantime Mindanao prepares to celebrate its annual Peace Week, 27 November - 3 December 2003, with meetings, events, public gathering all focussing on Christian-Muslim dialogue and peace. The theme for the week this year is “Healing wounds through forgiveness: key to integral human development”. In a press statement for the occasion the Bishops-Ulema Conference, set up by Christian and Muslim leaders in Mindanao, said that “lasting peace calls for more than political agreement, a cease-fire and development projects. It demands healing of society through a radically new factor: forgiveness. Integral human development demands a body and soul in full health. Health of the body comes from projects for economic development, health of the spirit comes only with forgiveness. Only a man who forgives and is forgiven can build authentic peace and reconciliation. Peace is a gift of the God Almighty, but it is also a task of every human person”. (PA) (Fides Service 28/10/2003 lines 37 words 395)