Zamboanga (AsiaNews) - The World Interfaith Harmony Week, (Wihw) will be held in the Philippines in February 2013. The confirmation appeared today on the website of the Philippine Senate. The Senate vote comes after the historic peace agreement between Islamist rebels and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed this morning in Manila. The document is a first step for the realization of the new autonomous region of Bangsamoro (Mindanao) and sets the stage for the disarmament of the Islamic militias and the beginning of official dialogue between the authorities and Muslim leaders of the island.
According to Senator Loren Legarda the promoter of the bill, the World Interfaith Harmony Week will help to facilitate an end to the conflicts and tensions based on religious diversity and will help the implementation of the agreements between the government and MILF. Thanks to this initiative, the population will have the opportunity to learn about the various faiths in the country, with a great benefit to dialogue between the leaders and representatives of religious institutions. "
By joining the World Interfaith Harmony Week, the government will provide tools to organize activities and events themed on interreligious dialogue in parallel with political efforts to create a new reality in the autonomous Muslim Mindanao also respectful of Christian and tribal minorities.
World Interfaith Harmony Week has been held for several years in various countries around the world, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Italy and Jordan. In the Philippines, the first event was organized in 2011 in Zamboanga. It is promoted by the National Ulema Conference of the Philippines (NUCP), the Catholic Church and the Silsilah movement for interreligious dialogue founded by Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. "Adhesion to the World Interfaith Harmony Week at a national level - Fr. D'Ambra told AsiaNews - is a response to our request made to Filipino leaders during the first edition which took place in Zamboanga in February." He stresses that the merit of having brought a moment of reflection and dialogue between religions at the national level belongs to Senator Ben Zalazhar Climaco, a member of Silsilah. He brought the proposal to the Congress and convinced Senator Legarda to share the importance of this gesture in a country like the Philippines, torn by the conflict between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao for forty years.
Fr. D'Ambra was among the guests at the ceremony held this morning at the presidential palace where Teresita Deles, the government negotiator and Al Haj Murad, founder of the MILF (see photo), signed a framework agreement for construction of the new autonomous entity of Bangsamoro. The priest said that "By a strange coincidence the Senate vote in favour of the World Interfaith Harmony Week and the development of positive dialogue with the rebels took place on the same day that Marilou Diaz Abaya's death. The director was well-known in the Philippines for his commitment to dialogue between Muslims and Christians". She was a member of the Silsilah Media Center for Dialogue and Peace for many years and was famous throughout the country for "New Moon" a movie that brought the drama of the forty-year conflict in Mindanao to the big screen, helping to open the first negotiations between Moro rebels and the government. Her funeral was celebrated on February 13 in Manila a few days before the signing of the agreements, to which she had contributed indirectly by recounting the birth of Silsilah and the first informal meetings between Muslim leaders and members of the Catholic community in Mindanao. "From heaven, she no doubt follone this journey of peace that has culminated with the signing of agreements between Islamist rebels and government - said the priest - I invite ordinary people and political leaders to follow the example of Marilou Diaz Abaya so we may soon have a lasting peace on the island of Mindanao. " (S.C.)