01/04/2007, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Christians and Muslims working together for peace in Mindanao

by Santosh Digal
The two communities show great serenity and spirit of collaboration during Christmas and Ramadan. Religious authorities express hope that this atmosphere of cooperation can continue and that a peace accord can be reached between government and Muslim rebels.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The atmosphere of Christian-Muslim collaboration generated by the two communities’ religious festivities has induced leaders from both groups to work together to promote brotherhood and mutual understanding as ways to reach pace, this according Pedro B. Acharon Jr., mayor of General Santos City, a city of more than 400,000 people on Mindanao Island, southern Philippines. 

For 40 years now, the island has been in the grips of hostilities between the Filipino armed forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim guerrilla group fighting to gain greater autonomy for the predominantly Muslim region.

In the last two years clashes have declined. But although talks between the parties have started, they have been deadlocked in the last few months.

In the recent religious celebrations, Christians and Muslims have worked with local authorities to build mutual support and promote a sense of brotherhood among all residents.

“Muslims volunteers did lend a hand during All Souls Day and Christmas season. It created a peaceful ambiance of friendship among all”, Mayor Acharon said.

Likewise Raja Muda Alimudin Hassan, a Muslim religious leader, said Christians joined in the Eid’l Fitr celebration last October and provided freed medical services for members of both communities.

Mgr Romulo Valles, bishop of Kidapawan, said he was determined to promoted inter-faith dialogue in the region. Recently-appointed archbishop of Zamboanga City, the first Catholic diocese on Mindanao Island, he is a staunch defender of human rights, a supporter of the rights of local indigenous peoples as well as a backer of inter-faith dialogue.

Father Amado Picardal from Davao City has been promoting peace between Christians and Muslims as well. He has organised rallies for peace in Mindanao and has never relented in his efforts at cultivating an atmosphere of brotherhood between Christians and Muslims.

Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, from Mindanao’s capital of Cotabato City, said that everyone in the region longs for peace.

“There are still many obstacles to the signing of a long-desired peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” he explained. “But with mutual sacrifices and the prevailing good intentions of both parties including the efforts and encouragement of all other stakeholders in Mindanao, we pray that a peace agreement will be a gift from the Lord to the people of Mindanao in 2007.”

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