THE United Nations, in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly, recognizes the imperative for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among peoples of different nations.
With the aim of promoting a culture of peace and non-violence as well as inter-religious dialogues, the UN proclaimed in 2010 the formation of “World Interfaith Harmony Week” celebrated annually in the first week of February among all religions and faiths. Furthermore, the “UN encourages all nations to support this celebration in an effort to carry the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in all places of worship worldwide based upon the foundation teachings of love of God and neighbor in accordance with their religious traditions and practices”.
Prior to this declaration of the UN General Assembly, last September 23, 2010, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan was the first to propose this initiative. This was inspired by the pioneering work of “The Common Word initiative”.
According to the website of World Interfaith Harmony Week, “this initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbor, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and, therefore, provide the most solid theological ground possible”. (Read: http://worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com/)
It further said, “(t)he World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbor’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths and those with no faith”.
In our local setting, former House Deputy Speaker and Zamboanga City First District Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco (and now Zamboanga City mayor), authored Republic Act 10525 which declares the first week of February of every year as “World Interfaith Harmony Week” in the entire country. The law also provides that all government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled-corporations as well as local government units, are mandated to carry out the observance of activities designed to advance the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in accordance with religious traditions and practices. The proposal was embodied in Climaco’s House Bill 6148 which President Aquino signed into law as Republic Act 10525 last April 23, 2013. Its counterpart bill in the upper chamber was Senate Bill 3276 authored by Sen. Loren Legarda. The RA 10525 has all the noble and good intentions.
According to former Congresswoman Climaco, “House Bill 6148 aims to promote a just and lasting peace for the entire Philippine nation and to support the United Nation’s call for the establishment of a culture of peace, via civil and non-violent dialogue among diverse faiths and religions”. (Read: http://congress.gov.ph/press/details.php?pressid=7096 and http://congress.gov.ph/press/details.php?pressid=7096)
However, last February 1, 2016 (Monday), Malacañang has announced that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is doomed in Congress. Reactions from people who are naive and ignorant of the Bangsamoro peace processes are disgusting. They truly hate BBL, not because they hate the Muslims per se, but they live in a world that is not compatible with the realities of the people in Mindanao.
Prejudices and biases towards the Bangsamoro people are unimaginable. In fact, this was the reason why majority within the Congress decided not to pass the BBL. The majority of our congressmen based their decision in not passing the BBL with the botched police operation called Mamasapano encounter.
Had our government remained true in implementing RA 10525, we could have a better Bangsamoro region. Had our government realized that dialogue is crucial in peace building, the majority of the Filipino people supported the passage of the BBL. But the reality in Luzon and Visayas is different from Mindanao. The majority of the Christians from other regions see the Bangsamoro people as the enemy. They do not see the fact that they are also Filipinos who are simply asking for social justice.
Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco also said peace in Mindanao has remained elusive owing to many factors, not only economic in nature but culturally as well. She said the Philippine government exerts considerable effort to seek and promote peace throughout the region primarily through renewed peace negotiations.
The WIFHW must not remain as texts or ideas of dialogue. It must be put in action. It is not enough that peace advocates gather and conduct fora or seminars. They must put into action at a larger public space the spirit of dialogue.