01/23/2023, 13.30
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Mindanao thanks Fr Calvo, witness of dialogue beyond extremism

by Santosh Digal

After 51 years of mission in the tormented south of the Philippines, serving the last and peace among religious communities, the Claretian missionary has returned to Spain. From Basilan to Zamboanga, he challenged Islamic terrorism by building opportunities for encounter.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Fr Angel Calvo, a Claretian missionary, left the Philippines last Friday to return to his native Spain, country.

Well known for his commitment to reconciliation in Mindanao, he retired at the age of 78 after 51 spent in the service of the last on an island torn by a long conflict, in an area of the country with an Islamic majority.

In recent weeks, his tireless work in Mindanao won him public accolades from several government organisations, civil society groups, religious leaders, who committed themselves to keeping alive the legacy of peace and service to the poor he promoted in his apostolate, starting with Katilingban sa Kalambuan, the development society he founded to give dignity to the poorest and most marginalised communities in Zamboanga.

His missionary work begun in Basian, where he arrived in 1972, just five months before martial law was proclaimed in the Philippines.

In the 20 years he spent in Basilan (where he served as parish priest and head of the local radio) followed by his ministry in Zamboanga, he found himself confronted with traumas such as the kidnapping of religious leaders by Islamist terrorists, the tragedy of the homeless, the scourge of trafficking of children and adolescents, nights spent with street kids.

“I discovered soul-crushing experiences in each of these scenarios when I discovered others' or my own breathing moments of existence. I found the core of God's purpose,” Fr Calvo said.

His missionary approach was to turn hatred into love and be an instrument of peace in the midst of violent extremism and terrorism, working with everyone: the government, civil society organisations, Christians, Muslims, people of other faiths.

Everyone now recognises his commitment to mutual respect, trust and love between Christians and Muslims and cooperation in the quest for harmony, solidarity and peace.

“We thank him for dedicating his life, love, and service to Mindanao and Zamboanga! We hope his return to Spain will find him in good health, peace and happiness,” said Maria Venus Bonifacio Giron, a lay colleague of Fr Calvo, speaking to AsiaNews.

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