Marawi (Agenzia Fides) - "Peace in Mindanao is possible only if we educate everyone to consider themselves as brothers and sisters": says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Zamboanga (Southern Philippines), after a recent visit to Marawi with a group of the "Silsilah" interfaith movement and a delegation of the Xavier University. "Peace in Mindanao will be a long journey. I am convinced of this, and with patience we have been walking, since 1984, with many Muslims and Christian friends of Silsilah, carrying out programs of dialogue and peace", he says.
"The recent visit to Marawi - explains the missionary - is further evidence that the transformation process is still long. Some Muslim friends of the Maranao ethnic group, the local ethnic group, told me that even children are poisoned by a propaganda of hatred and division between Christians and Muslims. Prejudices and intolerances still divide the communities of different faiths in Mindanao", D'Ambra notes.
"There was a time when Christians and Muslims in Mindanao were closer to each other and a climate of friendship and respect was widespread. Why and how was this climate undermined? The international influence of a certain restricted version of Islam becomes visible. In this context the radical groups that have destroyed Marawi have found support and are moving to replicate the violence in other areas of Mindanao", the priest says. In this phase, he adds, "good Muslim religious leaders seem paralyzed: if they condemn terrorism, they too receive violent warnings and threats".
"In this situation the government is pushing for the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). I am convinced that this law will help if it respects the fundamental aspirations of all the groups present in Mindanao. In many there is hope that the BBL can solve some urgent problems of the growing terrorism. The hope is that this time the leaders involved in this new adventure of BBL will move with more wisdom, avoiding past mistakes", he notes.
Fr. D'Ambra concludes: "This is the time to work hard to build a new law for the common good. We are all called to help prepare the ground for friendship and realize the dream of building coexistence in Mindanao: a Christian must be free and respected in an area with a Muslim majority and a Muslim must be free and respected in areas with a Christian majority". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 2/3/2018)