Manila (AsiaNews) – Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Zamboanga, a town in the predominantly Muslim island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, spoke to AsiaNews about the opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as "an opportunity for Christians but also for Muslims. Even for the latter, mercy is important in the Qur‘an’s message”.
Thirty years ago, the Catholic priest founded the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of peace and dialogue between Muslims and Christians, open to many interfaith groups.
"When the Jubilee opened,” he said, “I was in Manila with a Christian-Muslim group called the Interfaith Council of Leaders. The movement operates in Quiapo, a district in central Manila, location of a large mosque and a famous church. A few years ago, we opened an interfaith group at a local parish.”
“On Tuesday, I offered a reflection, noting that it was the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I also stressed the importance this Jubilee also holds for Muslims. I cited a few passages from the Bull of Induction (Misericordiae Vultus) in which the pope cites some verses of the Qur‘an on mercy.”
Today the missionary is in Iligan, a city in northern Mindanao, "because I am trying to bring together the island’s various interfaith groups.”
“Many projects have received the go-ahead, and over the next few months, we plan to boost the presence of Silsilah groups in various cities. Such groups include students who have attended our courses, which we have been offering for the past 30 years. So far, we have 20 groups, each led by a Muslim and a Christian."
For Fr D’Ambra, the main issue that needs dialogue is the “danger of violence that might spread to the area.” in fact, “The situation in Mindanao is delicate,” he explained. “Local elections are scheduled in the coming months. As is often the case when it is time to vote, we can expect a spate of abductions.”
“We shall be also be talking about ISIS, which is present in the area, on how minimise the dangers of radicalisation and on how to encourage leaders to be open. Many of them are afraid to talk, but they know the truth."
The Silsilah Dialogue Movement has been involved in conflict resolution work since 1984, trying to ease tensions and defuse outbreaks of religious violence.
Such a task is rooted in the very name of the movement, an Arabic word meaning chain, link, or connection in the sense of lineage between Sufi mystics and between humans and God.