Fr. D’Ambra: Living all the dimensions of faith, even martyrdom

The PIME missionary receives the Don Andrea Santoro Award from the Missionary Center of the Diocese of Rome.  "We are living in a historic moment in which Muslims are so confused, even projected outside through violence".  "Dialogue is a difficult but necessary path".

 


Rome (AsiaNews) - For Christians, today it is necessary "to live all the dimensions of faith, including martyrdom,"  commented Fr.  Sebastiano D’Ambra, comments to AsiaNews. The priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME)this morning recieved the Don Andrea Santoro Award from the Missionary Center of the Diocese of Rome. 

The awards ceremony, in its first edition, was held in the Conciliation Hall of the Lateran Palace.  In addition to Fr.  D’Ambra, Isabella Bencetti received the award, in the name of her deceased husband, deacon Luigi;  Sister Marzia Feurra and Sister Marzia Bacchion, Consolata missionaries serving Ali Sabieh (Djibouti);  and Sr. María Lourdes Vílchez Morales, of the Catholic Masters of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, on behalf of the Inter-Congregational Missionary Community of Haiti.

Starting this year, the award is given to those in the world who have distinguished themselves for their commitment in announcing the Gospel ad Gentes, interreligious dialogue and human promotion. 

Fr. D’Ambra carries out his work in Mindanao, an island in the southern Philippines.  In Zamboanga City, 35 years ago he founded the Silsilah movement [in Arabic: chain, bond ndr].  The group is a well-known presence of cultural awareness, training and sharing, whose goal is to bring Christians and Muslims together.  The PIME priest is the current executive secretary of the Commission for interreligious dialogue of the Philippine Bishops' Conference (CBBC).  "When I was informed that the Missionary Center of the Diocese of Rome would have given me the Don Andrea Santoro Award - declares Fr.  D’Ambra - I immediately thought of another martyr priest: Fr.  Salvatore Carzedda, PIME missionary killed in Zamboanga in 1992. The situations that led to their martyrdom are different but have a common root;  both victims were engaged in dialogue, in a difficult context and in contact with Muslims.  In these days, I have also thought of Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso, my fellow student and now among the 19 blessed martyrs of Algeria ".

"By accepting this recognition - the missionary continues - I had the opportunity to share the mission we are carrying out in the Philippines through the Silsilah movement.  I find that this initiative of the diocese is a good thing and also a sign of the times.  Today Christians must be aware that Christianity requires living all the dimensions of faith, including martyrdom ". 

But it is widely believed among Christians that dialogue with the Islamic world "is impossible";  with martyrdoms like that of Fr.  Andrea Santoro as proof of this.  In this regard, the priest says: "I can understand why pwoplw would say such a thing.  We are living in a historical moment in which there is so much confusion among Muslims, even projected externally through violence.  People often witness the phenomenon in a superficial way, without going into more depth.  Dialogue is a difficult but necessary path.  I hope that this award can help Rome launch important messages of peace ”.

Stories and testimonies are very useful to promote the culture of dialogue.  "There are some moving ones - said Fr.  D’Ambra -  Violent people and groups exist, it's true.  But if we can touch their hearts, these individuals manage to bring out the best in themselves.  To read these stories, you need to have new eyes and hearts.  The most important aspect that brings Christians and Muslims together is that of prayer.  I always invite Christians and Muslims to deepen the spiritual side of life.  Even if we are divided and there are several contradictions, human aspiration always leads us towards it.  As Nostra Aetate states, it is the essential point in every human being's search".

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