10/31/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Peace in Mindanao needs youth dialogue

by Santosh Digal
Pluralism and multiculturalism are ways to promote interaction among the country’s young people. Campus ministers are tasked with setting up a “communication network” that connects inter-confessional institutions. For a Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader the war in the province is not a “conflict between religions.”
Davao City (AsiaNews) – The goal of the 3rd National Convention on Campus Ministers held in Davao City on 24-26 October was to strengthen dialogue in matters of faith and promote culture and education in Catholic, Protestant and state-run educational institutions. Campus ministers included priests, nuns, lay people and students who work and educate students and youth in colleges and universities on religious matters.

The organising committee said that the convention focused on the significance of dialogue as a tool to understand and attain peace in conflict-stricken Mindanao, southern Philippines, an island torn by a decade-old conflict between Muslim rebels and government troops.

“The long history of conflicts in Mindanao,” an area “marked by differences in culture, faith, and religious expressions has been the constant challenge for people in Mindanao to build sustainable and lasting peace,” the committee said.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma said that to heal the past and build the future a university can help by promoting the particular features of a culture of peace.

The convention also heard about the importance of a “network of communication and dialogue” among the various campus ministers because only this way can “faith communities” be built “on university campuses” and communicate with each other.

Fr Sebastiano D’Ambra, a PIME missionary and founder of Silsilah, a Mindanao-based movement promoting Islamic-Christian dialogue, said that inter-faith dialogue is more than a search for mutual understanding, but consists in mutual witness to one another’s beliefs and a common exploration of one another’s religious convictions until it becomes a way of life.

For this reason it is important to promote from a young age values that allow people from different religious backgrounds to live peacefully together.

Leah Vidal, executive director of Mindanawon for Cultural Initiatives and director of Campus Ministry at the Ateneo de Davao University, said that students “play a key role” if they are allowed to “develop a sense of pluralism and acceptance of their multi-cultural and interfaith environment during this critical time of their development.”

A high ranking official with rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said that the Moro people will continue to sustain good relations with Christians in Mindanao.

Attyerny Safrullah Dipatuan, deputy chairman of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), a MILF agency dedicated to rehabilitation and development, said there was no truth to the claim that conflicts were developing between Muslims and Christians as a result of the Mindanao conflict.

He cited as an example Lanao del Sur province, where Muslims and Christians live side by side despite some limited cases of violence.

“Those who view the Mindanao conflict as war between Muslims and Christians are those who do not really understand the root cause of the struggle,” the MILF leader said.

In his statement he also confirmed that his group’s leaders are willing to “to pursue a political settlement with the government through peace negotiations.”

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