Monday, 16 June 2003

Zamboanga City (Fides Service) – “Have courage! This is the message of God at the times of confusion and conflict”. This is the exhortation addressed to the people of Mindanao Island in southern Philippines by the Inter-Faith Council of Leaders in Zamboanga City in the extreme south of Zamboanga peninsula, in a part of Mindanao disrupted by the activity of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF and Abu Sayyaf.
In an open letter to the people of Zamboanga City the religious leaders deplore violence by individuals and groups and they condemn terrorism, violence against civilians, bombings and kidnappings, but they say to the people: “Have courage! Do not give up hope” calling one everyone to work at all levels to restore peace in society: “To build peace we need patience and humility” the letter reads.
The Inter-Faith Council calls on the government not to let itself be tempted by the philosophy of war and repression to solve problems since this only increases mistrust and hostility among people. “At the same time we wish to tell our people that we can overcome fear if we build trust and respect, tell children and young people stories of kindness and friendship that we experience already in our society among Muslims, Christians and people of different cultures and religions”.
Have courage, for us is to look not only to spots of violence but also areas and experiences of peace. We encourage our people to have new understanding of dialogue. Dialogue is essentially a spiritual attitude that has its roots in God’s dialogue with humanity. Thus dialogue is an attitude of love and compassion. This is God’s style”.
In this context – the letter concludes – We welcome the new signs of hope coming from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF, for the unilateral declaration of suspension of offensive military actions and the positive response of the government to this new effort of peace. We are convinced that we, Muslim and Christian communities, have to play an important role in the peace process. We have to educate our people to peace through continuous formation on the importance of dialogue as part of God’s will for humanity. Thus we have to tell our people that we have to build first of all Peace Zones, Sanctuaries of Peace or Harmony Zones in our hearts, in our families and among neighbours”. PA (Fides Service 16/6/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 478)