Diversity and Freedom of Religion

[Introductory Discussion, Pakighinabi, 21 June 2017]

While the country may have celebrated independence from Spain 119 years ago, our struggle today must also be for independence from religious extremism and intolerance.  This comes from an irreligious position which as a consequence of its claims that there is only one God, that there is only one legitimate religion, and that they are the only true worshippers of God, rejects the concept of diversity of religions and anything like freedom of religion.  Any person who challenges this notion can be attacked, assaulted, tortured or killed.  Through such means, coercion towards religious assent is legitimate.  Persons can be forced by torture or threat of death to embrace “the true religion.”  But the contradiction between the claim to be a religion, which functions in relationship with the compassionate God, and the imperative to kill, to maim, and to devastate those who do not agree with them, disqualifies them as a religion and reduces them to a mere conceptual ideology that has no moorings in a real God of compassion.

Pope Francis describes the world situation of today as “a world war being fought piecemeal” in explosions of terror and packages of violence throughout the globe.  Bombs explode and blood is shed in a football stadium or in a rock concert, targeting not armored combatants but innocent children.  Human lives are taken not only by grenade launchers and missiles, but by speeding trucks and murderous vans.  In London, a van mowed down Muslims leaving the Finsbury mosque day before yesterday; one man died, eight were injured.  On June 3, a terror attack by a man driving a van on the London bridge killed 8 and terrorized many others. On May 22, 2017 in Manchester during the Ariane Grande concert , a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 59..

Here Pope Francis says, “it needs to be clearly stated that no civilized society can be built without repudiating every ideology of evil, violence and extremism that presumes to suppress others and to annihilate diversity by manipulating and profaning the Sacred Name of God.”

There is religious diversity.

We Filipinos, Catholics and Muslims, but also Buddhists, Protestants, Aglipayans, Iglesya ni Cristo, Born-Again Evangelicals, must understand and repudiate this ideology, this fabricated set of ideas, that is not religion.  It does not connect us to God, whom all religions recognize as a God of compassion.  Instead it manipulates and profanes the Sacred Name of God, who is a source and guarantor of life and love.  It manipulates: it uses “God” to carry out the evil designs of some human beings.  It profanes:  it drags the Sacred Name of God in the bloodied mud of human politics and conflict.

In this context, Pope Francis states further:  All of us have the duty to teach coming generations that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, does not need to be protected by men; indeed, it is he who protects them.  He never desires the death of his children, but rather their life and happiness.  He can neither demand nor justify violence; indeed, he detests and rejects violence (“God… hates the lover of violence”: Ps 11:5).  The true God calls to unconditional love, gratuitous pardon, mercy, absolute respect for every life, and fraternity among his children, believers and nonbelievers alike.”

It is not we who protect God from evil, but God who delivers us from evil.  The “God” therefore who “commands” or “wills” violence, destruction and death, especially of children, be they Christian or Muslim, theists or atheists, is a false God, a fabrication of evil and irreverent minds, who have yet in God’s mercy to encounter the true God.  

Speaking to leaders of differing religions, Pope Francis says, “It is our duty to proclaim together that history does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice.  History does not forgive those who talk about equality, but then discard those who are different.  It is our duty to unmask the peddlers of illusions about the afterlife, those who preach hatred in order to rob the simple of their present life and their right to live with dignity, and who exploit others by taking away their ability to choose freely and to believe responsibly.  It is our duty to dismantle deadly ideas and extremist ideologies, while upholding the incompatibility of true faith and violence, of God and acts of murder.”

As God, in his unfathomable wisdom, created us diverse, so did he create us with religious freedom.

More than 52 years ago, the Vatican Council, the highest teaching body of the Catholic Church, proclaimed the right to religious freedom on the basis of the dignity of the human person:

“This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

“The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

“It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

“Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means”  (Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

It may also be in this spirit that Muslim religious scholars are waging an “ideological war” against extremist groups.  The official website of the ARMM* reports as follows:

Basilan (June 12, 2017) – Ulama, or Muslim religious scholars, are waging an ideological war against the spread of radicalism and extremism through a holistic approach in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“We are engaging all sectors to address the spread of religious extremism and radicalism in the country,” said Abdulmuhmin Alyakanie Mujahid, the executive director of the Darul Ifta, or the Fatwa Council of the ARMM.

On Thursday, June 8, Islamic scholars in the island province of Basilan forged several agreements with the regional and provincial governments, as well as with line agencies, to carry-out “multi approaches” to deny the spread of extremist ideology in their area.

The effort, Muhajid said, is an offshoot of the Ulama Summit that was held in Cotabato City in early May. During the summit, the Ulama issued a declaration against terrorism, saying that “It is Haram (forbidden and unlawful) to use Islam to justify or legitimize violent extremism and terrorism.”

The Ulama also challenged themselves “to reeducate (their) constituents to rediscover Islamic faith for justice, compassion, harmony and peace.”

“It is imperative upon us all to cooperate and collaborate with the stakeholders in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms and manifestations,” the declaration said. Mujahid said they are now proactively engaging all stakeholders to overcome the challenges of extremism as what is happening in Marawi City.

“These extremist groups are using the creed of Islam. As a matter of fact, they are using the so-called 13 doctrines of Islam and citing verses of the Holy Quran in justifying their criminal and inhumane acts. We can’t allow that and we will not allow that,” he said. “Our call is to fight against violent extremism and terrorism,” Mujahid underscored.

In the diversity of our religions that path to unity is not in killing the other to eliminate the diversity, but in living the religious relationship with the compassionate God with true radicality so that we may re-discover together the human dignity that God in his compassion cherishes.

 

 

 

* https://armm.gov.ph/muslim-religious-scholars-wage-ideological-war-extremist-groups/

 

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Knowledge, Wisdom and Divine Folly

[Homily:  Mass of the Holy Spirit, ADDU Schools of Higher Education, Chapel of the Assumption, June 15,2017.]

Once again we gather at the beginning of the academic year in Eucharistic Celebration. We come together as a university community of teachers and students in academic freedom:  teachers of such as literature, languages, history, pedagogy, chemistry, engineering, nursing and business management, and students hoping in this university to be conversant in literature and knowledgeable in past events that shape the present, to become teachers, chemists, engineers, nurses and skilled managers of business enterprises and of government units.

But in the great tradition of the university, we come together as teachers and scholars not just to learn what others have learned before us, not just to learn a profession which will determine the quality of our living and the style of our life in the future, but we come in search of truth. What that truth is, what it entails and what it forbids, is itself part of our search.  We search for the truth behind a tasty scoop of ice cream, or the truth behind the artic glaciers locked for centuries in shapes like mighty frozen mountains now suddenly melting in a planet that is warming.  We search for the truth in the elemental material building blocks that make up the planet and universe, as we search for the truth of how human beings work on materials of this earth to feed, sustain, and shelter themselves, to builds homes, workspaces, colosseums, temples, mosques and churches and so change the face of the earth.

We search for the truth of the human person as embodied or spirited, enslaved or free, healthy or sick, alone or with others, distinguishing between right and wrong, choosing what is right or pursuing what is wrong.  We search for the truth with the eros of the insatiable human mind, and the relentless search leads us to acknowledge the Truth behind the many truths, the Beginning of many unfoldings, the final Goal of many proceedings, the Heart of many yearnings, the Being of beings.  We search for the Truth of this Being, and open ourselves needy to the Spirit of God the Creator, the Redeemer, the Lover.

Perhaps we can say in truth:  it is awe that brings us to the search for truth.  And it is awe that sustains us in the search.  It is the newborn baby that invites the search.  It is the loved one suddenly lost to death that demands it.  It is the insistence on the truth of humanity that stretches our hands to touch the truth of divinity.

But today, in this university, we come together as Christians around the table of the Lord who introduced himself to us as the Truth.  “I am the Way, the Life and the Truth,” he said.  Even as we know Jesus as the Truth and are touched by the truth of his Heart, we are in truth not allowed mental sloth nor allowed complacency.  We still feel impelled to search for truth.  I fill my world devoutly with Jesus as Truth – or so I think I do – yet I must search for truth in those who do not recognize Jesus as worth their attention, or in those who accept Jesus vaingloriously yet live as if they’ve never met him.  Knowing Jesus as Truth, I must yet search for truth in the horror of violence committed in the name of God that knows not its contradiction nor feels the shame of its blasphemy.  I must search for the truth of my participation, willy nilly, in that violence.

At this Mass which commemorates the truth of our redemption, we ask the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, to aid us in our labor for knowledge and guide us in our need for wisdom.

We must labor in our search for truth for the knowledge that separates us from the ignorant, the superior knowledge that separates us from the mediocre.  We must labor humbly to master calculus, to learn the governing algorithms of the system, to appropriate the proper nursing skills, to grasp the principles of accounting.  We must labor to learn of our teachers, to study the theories of experts, to appropriate best practices, and so grow in knowledge of nature, the human being and of God from the treasures this university has access to in its faculty, its libraries, its relationship with the world of erudition.  For this labor against ignorance and ineptitude, we ask for the Spirit’s help.

But we beg for the Spirit’s guidance as we dare in truth to search for wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God.  James says, “if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:15).  We seek not only to be knowledgeable but to be wise.  Wisdom is not only knowledge but good judgement.  Wisdom is not only knowing what fire is, but when to use it to warm our hearth and not to burn down our house.  It is not just knowing how to make a gun, but when to use it to promote good and thwart evil.  It is not just knowing the constitutional powers of political office, but knowing how to wield power effectively in favor of the common good.  It is not just knowing what is healthy, it is keeping healthy.  Knowledge is what is taught, wisdom is what is formed from centuries of discerning between folly and sagacity.  It is the power behind the ought.  Describing wisdom, Fr. De la Costa once said, “There is faith, hope and charity.  But the greatest of these is prudence.”

But in a Catholic university there is a deeper truth, to which we are invited in faith.  We gather here around the Eucharistic table where Jesus, one in his Passion with the infinite Compassion of his Father, expresses his Love for us in the Sacrifice of the Cross, saying, “Take me.  Eat.  This is my Body…  Take me.  Drink.  This is my Blood” (cf. Mt: 26:26-29).   When Jesus first spoke of himself as the Bread of life inviting all to take and eat, many of his disciples, scandalized by the foolishness of this, walked away and ceased being Jesus’ disciples (cf. John 6).  At this Mass of the Holy Spirit, we hear in our First Reading St. Paul’s words, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, so that we may know the things given to us freely by God, which things we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by God, because they are foolishness to [a normal man]; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:12-14).  “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1: Cor 1:18).  “My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor 2:4).

As our new academic year at Ateneo de Davao University commences, we call on God’s Spirit of Knowledge to guide us in our quest for knowledge. Beyond knowledge, we call on God’s Spirit of Wisdom to help us attain wisdom.  But beyond the wisdom of the world, we call on the power of God’s Spirit to strengthen us as we humbly encounter the folly of the Cross, the foolishness of a God’s love for us that endured so much pain that we might know his love.  We call on this Spirit to empower us to respond to the Crucified Lord not with the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of the wealthy, the oligarchs, the selfish, the powerful and the wise, but as “fools for Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10).  As fools for Christ, let us study hard to help the needy.  Enkindled by the fire of God’s love, let us work hard to empty ourselves in love for our God and neighbor.  As forgiven sinners, let us build one another up in love that as fools for Christ we might be one with God’s Spirit in renewing the face of the earth.


 

 

[Homily:  Mass of the Holy Spirit, Chapel of St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) , June 15 2017, 9:00 am]

In the Mass of the Holy Spirt of the Ateneo de Davao University we shall pray to the God Spirit of Knowledge to help our students attain knowledge.  We pray that in the pursuit of their various professions they learn the knowledge and skills they ambition.  We pray that the engineers learn their physics, that the computer scientists learn their algorithms, and that the nurses learn their operating-room skills.  For our emerging theologians at SATMI, we pray at this Mass of the Holy Spirit at SATMi that Spirit of God help them to attain the knowledge they require, the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, of their sacred and profane origins and the manner of their interpretation, the knowledge of salvation history, the knowledge of the key doctrines of the Church including its social teachings, the knowledge of the theological foundations of morality, the knowledge of the manner in which the Church cares for its people, the knowledge of canon law.  We pray for God’s help because no matter the discipline, the attainment of knowledge is an arduous task requiring rigorous study, and for the future servant of the people of God, whether religious or cleric, married or singly blessed, a heavy responsibility.  We are not interested in ignorant pastors.  The poorer the people we serve, the greater the necessity to serve them with knowledge not only of theology but of disciplines like anthropology, psychology, law, entrepreneurship and management to enrich and deepen our service.

We also pray to the God Spirit of Wisdom to lead our students to wisdom.  Knowledge is not enough.  Wisdom is required.  One begs humbly for wisdom in prayer, for wisdom is not just acquired.  It is a sublime gift.  St. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”  (James 1:5).  Yet St. Paul says, “…to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:8).  One begs for wisdom, as we beg for wisdom at this Mass of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough to know how to make a car; wisdom is required to discern when to drive it and when to keep it in a garage.  It is not enough to know what a friend is; wisdom is required to care for a friend, to enrich a friend’s life, and rejoice in a friend’s love.  It is not enough to know what love is; it takes wisdom to love or not to love, to manifest one’s burning desires or to keep them carefully discreet, to come closer to a beloved in distance, or to overcome cold distance in a warm embrace.  It is not enough to know psychology and how human groups function in different cultures; but it takes wisdom to advance love genuinely when there is a conflict in loves or a quarrel among friends.  It is not enough to know the myriad propositions of Church dogmas; it takes wisdom to open oneself daily to the quiet experience of God’s truth, who loves in truth, and to share of God’s truth with others.  It is not enough to know of the Word of God’s Love and to know the exigency to proclaim this in season and out of season; it takes wisdom to share the Word of God’s love with the lonely, the poor, the excluded, the homosexuals, the transsexuals but also with the straight, the wealthy, the powerful, and indeed the sinner, how to use it as hope for a person in despair or as a double-edged sword against injustice.  Fr. Horacio de la Costa, the historian and first Filipno Jesuit Provincial spoke of sublime wisdom when he said, “There is faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is prudence.”

But in SATMI there is a deeper truth, to which we are invited in faith.  We gather here around the Eucharistic table where we remember Jesus, one in his Passion with the infinite Compassion of his Father, expressing his Love for us in the Sacrifice of the Cross, saying, “Take me.  Eat.  This is my Body…  Take me.  Drink.  This is my Blood” (cf. Mt: 26:26-29).   When Jesus first spoke of himself as the Bread of Life inviting all to take and eat, many of his disciples, scandalized by the foolishness of this prospect, walked away and ceased being Jesus’ disciples (cf. John 6).  At this Mass of the Holy Spirit, we hear in our First Reading St. Paul’s words, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, so that we may know the things given to us freely by God, which things we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by God, because they are foolishness to [a normal man]; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:12-14).  “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1: Cor 1:18).  “My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor 2:4).

As our new academic year commences at SATMI, we call on God’s Spirit of Knowledge to guide us in our labors for knowledge. Beyond knowledge, we beg God’s Spirit of Wisdom to gift us with wisdom.  But beyond the wisdom of the world, we call on the power of God’s Spirit to strengthen us as we encounter the folly of the Christ’s Cross in awe, the foolishness of a God’s love for us that endured so much pain that we might know his love.  We call on this Spirit to empower us to respond to the Crucified Lord not with the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of the wealthy, the oligarchs, the selfish, the powerful and the wise, but as “fools for Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10).  St. Ignatius suggests we pray before the Crucified Lord, “If this is what you have done so foolishly for me in love, Lord, what have I done for you?  What am I doing for you?  What ought I do for you?”  As fools for Christ, let us study hard not for grades and academic distinctions, but to help the lost and the needy.  Enkindled by the fire of God’s love, let us empty ourselves foolishly in love for our God and neighbor.  As forgiven sinners, let us build one another up generously that as fools for Christ we might be one with God’s Spirit in transforming cultures and renewing the face of the earth.  In God’s Spirit let us embrace this foolish Jesus loving us and be filled with joy, for ultimately we are about joy.  “The joy of the Gospel,” Francis says, “fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.  Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.  With Christ joy is constantly born anew” (EG, 1).

 

 

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Orlando Cardinal Quevedo on Terrorism in Mindanao, etc.

Car Quevedo

[Fr; Romy Saniel, OMI, has shared Orlando Cardinal Quevedo’s answers to a foreign journalist’s questions.  They may be important thoughts for the questions we have about the situation in Mindanao today.]

 

Answers to questions from Our Sunday Visitor, U.S.A.

12 June 2017


1. Church and Government – Relationships

The Bishops have denounced corruption in the past in no uncertain terms. During the presidency of Corazon Aquino, the Bishops wrote a pastoral letter, entitled “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” The Bishops perceived that after the long regime of Martial Law which ended in 1986, the new government was not addressing government corruption effectively. During the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Bishops again wrote a pastoral letter on corruption entitled, “Justice Flows like a River.” In this letter the Bishops not only denounced government corruption but also inveighed against corruption in the business and even religious spheres. They called upon the laity to lead the battle against corruption, while providing them with doctrinal and moral guidance.

After the initial positive reaction to the pastoral statements, not much follow-up took place.

The present President’s war against corruption resonates with the Bishops’ sentiments, even if he has vented some anger against some Bishops who have been vocal against him. He generalizes the hypocrisy of the “Church,” the Bishops and priests. Against all the records of history, he believes that the Church will become irrelevant in a few years. The Bishops have been inclined to let him remain in his negativity. The Bishops have the highest credibility ratings. Moreover, reaction begets retaliation in even more virulent form. Many of the laity who have supported the President are now saying that in fighting the Church, the President is going too far.

The principle that the Bishops follow is the principle of “critical solidarity.” We are in solidarity with his intentions of crushing the nationwide drug menace that significantly involves powerful people. We are in solidarity with his move to develop the countryside and move away from “Manila centralism and imperialism.” We are in solidarity with his desire to develop agriculture rather than simply focus on industries. We are in solidarity with his avowed intention of forging peace with moderate Bangsamoro rebels and communist-inspired revolutionaries. He does have “option for the poor.”

But we are critical of the methods that he uses in the “drug war.” We are critical of the violations of human rights, the lack of due process and the killing of drug suspects and the lack of accountability for these. As a body of Bishops we have expressed this criticism officially and publicly. Many individual Bishops add their own critical statements.

In many issues of public concern the President has moved decisively. That is one significant reason why our faithful are generally supportive of the President, foul language and abuses not withstanding.

2. The Quality of Filipino Faith

Already in 1991 the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) has observed that the faith of the Filipino is deep, solid, and resilient. But it has major flaws. It is to a great extent devotional, ritualistic, dwelling on externals. It is uninformed, an easy prey to bible-preaching evangelists. Most of all there is a dichotomy between faith and life. We believe but we do not practice what we believe. We have been sacramentalized but not evangelized. The consequence has been economic and political imbalances, such as poverty, the wide gap between rich and poor, corruption, structural injustice.

Hence we, the whole Church, have to embark on a journey of integral evangelization, one that seriously considers the Church’s mission of “integral liberation” as Pope Paul VI stated in his post-synodal exhortation, “Evangelii Nuntiandi.” It is a mission that includes as a constitutive dimension liberation from everything that oppresses the human person, especially sin.

Thus PCP-II more than 25 years ago. Its vision was for the Church to be a “Church of Authentic Disciples, a Church of the Poor, a Participatory Church, an Inculturated Church.”

The support of the faithful, including many priests and religious, for the violent methods in the drug war has highlighted once again the need for a new integral evangelization.

3. Terrorism, Other Concerns, and Martial Law

Terrorism is not simply a threat. It has been actual for many years in certain parts of Mindanao. We know that the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) has been terrorizing foreigners, rich civilians, and Christians for many years through kidnapping for ransom. They are earning millions of dollars from these terroristic acts. They have murdered foreigners and Filipinos for not meeting their ransom demands. A Catholic priest was kidnapped with teachers from a Catholic school in Basilan many years ago. He was tortured and killed.

But ideological terrorism, ISIS style, is new vintage. Three militant groups have pledge allegiance to ISIS: the ASG, the Bangsamo Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and most recently the Maute group. It is the Maute group with its overtly anti-Christian actions (the destruction of a Catholic Cathedral and its religious images, the burning of a Protestant school, the killing of hostages who could not recite verses of the Qur’an, the hostaging of Christians, including a priest and Church personnel) that has projected the reality of terrorism in southern Mindanao unto the world screen.

The additional horror is that the recruitment of young people to the terrorist cause is going on in various parts of Muslim Mindanao. Another terrifying factor is the involvement of international terrorists from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It has been said that ISIS wants to establish a center in Mindanao.

Martial Law has been the response of the President to the situation. It is a controversial decision, much protested by the Left which has its own on-going revolution against the government, a revolution dating back to the early 1970s.

As events unfold, many are beginning to be aware of facts and figures of rebellion against the law such as:

  • the connection between drugs and the Maute group,
  • between powerful politicians and drugs,
  • the extent of terrorist recruitment in many Moro communities in Mindanao,
  • the attraction of the ISIS ideology to young people disillusioned by the government’s failure to act on Bangsamoro aspirations for limited self determination.

Upon the request of the faithful for guidance, the Mindanao Bishops issued a statement that Martial Law can only be a means of last resort and must be temporary. At the time they wrote the statement, they said that they were not privy to the hard information available to the government regarding the Mindasnao situation. Therefore, they could not definitively declare that Martial Law is morally reprehensible. They warned against abuses and violations of human rights and called upon the faithful to be vigilant.

On the other hand, many Filipinos also believe that there are enough Philippine laws that authorize the President of the Philippines to deal with lawlessness, including terrorism.

Terrorism has its roots in injustices, discrimination, poverty, underdevelopment, government neglect, poor governance, and in historic biases and prejudices between Muslims and Christians.

Government has to address the economic and political roots of terrorism. Religious leaders of different faiths, educational institutions and churches have to effectively address the deep-seated biases, prejudices and erroneous religious beliefs beginning with the young.

These issues demand long term engagement.

4. A Cardinal in Mindanao

The mantra that Pope Francis has frequently articulated is for the Church to go to the peripheries, to the margins of society where life is most disadvantaged.

It seems to me that this is what Pope Francis did when he appointed a Cardinal in Mindanao, especially one from a war-ravaged and poverty-stricken region of southern Mindanao, an arena of armed conflict.

His message is special love for the Poor, option for the Poor. It is a message of Peace and Harmony among peoples of different religions. For this reason, during his trip to the Philippines to visit typhoon victims he prayed for the success of the peace process between the moderate Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government. He appealed for respect for the fundamental human rights of minorities (Christians and Indigenous Peoples) in the Bangsamoro territory. He and other leaders of the world’s religions also prayed for peace in southern Mindanao at the 2016 Assisi Day of Prayer.

5. Foreign Voices and the Philippine President

As of the moment the impact of international voices has little actual impact on the policies and practices of the President. He has said publicly that foreigners do not know the real problems of our country. They should not interfere. He has also said that if foreign government want to help, they should do so without conditions.

Foreign criticism reinforces the opinions of those contra-President and such criticism is given media mileage but does not dent the support of the pro-President majority.

Perhaps its impact may be felt only in the long term.

 


Answers to Questions from Polish OMI Magazine

14 June 2017


1. The Roots and Objectives of Terrorism

I can only speak of terrorism in the Philippines. I am not thoroughly familiar with the roots of terrorism in the Midlle East.

In the Philippines, there are two kinds of terrorism: one is criminal and the other is ideological.

The criminal kind is that of the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG), which split from the revolutionary Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in an ideological split. To support its rebel activities it began kidnapping people for ransom. This was so productive economically that the ideological motive gave way to the criminal. Today it is simply a lawless bandit group earning millions of dollars for their kidnapping activities. They have no qualms of conscience killing those they kidnap, foreigners and Filipinos, who cannot or do not wish to give the necessary ransom. Their leader declared his allegiance to the ISIS ideology but this declaration, many people believe, is just to claim an image of political ideology.

Ideological terrorism is that of the recently founded Maute group which broke away from the revolutionary Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The Maute brothers declared their allegiance to the ISIS ideology and raised the black ISIS flag in their sudden and quick take-over of the city of Marawi. Their aspiration and objective is the return of the golden age of the Caliphates, i.e., of the prophet and first Caliph, Mohammad. They wish to establish a caliphate in Mindanao, independent of the Philippine government, ideally free of “infidels.”

The Maute group destroyed the religious images in the Catholic Catheral of Marawi and razed the Cathedral to the ground. They also burned down a Protestant college, hostaged many Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, including a Catholic priest and Church personnel. They killed civilians trapped in the city if they could not recite verses from the Qur’an. They call as martyrs their members who have been killed in the on-going siege of Marawi. They are attracting many Muslim youth to their cause.

The roots of terrorism include:

  • perceived social injustice,
  • poverty and underdevelopment,
  • government neglect,
  • discrimination,
  • historic biases and prejudices between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, and
  • failure of the government to respond effectively to the fundamental aspirations of the Bangsamoro (Moro nation).

Since the beginning of the American colnization of the Philippines in 1900, the Bangsamoro have aspired for self-determination. Their present aspiration is for limited self-determination or autonomy that is qualitatively wider than the autonomy of the present Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao – ARMM.

Also an important factor for the rise of terrorism is the influence of secularism in society. Ideological terrorism reacts aggressively against western secularist ideology that does not recognize the necessity of God and religion in public discourse and introduces a public morality without any reference to God or to any religious faith. Therefore, ideological terrorism is against the westernization or secularization of culture, an emerging global culture which the Bishops in the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) have also written against. Another objective then of ideological terrorism is the purification, preservation and promotion of pure Islamic faith in accord with their interpretation of the Qur’an. It is an interpretation that mainstream Islamic scholars have declared as selective and erroneous.

Such are the roots of terrorism in the Philippines.

2. Terrorists and Christianity in the Philippines

The theory of a clash of civilizations does not apply to the rebellions of Moros in the Philippines and recent-day terrorism.

Armed conflicts between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines go back to the 16th century when, in 1521, the Spanish explorer, Magellan, brought Christianity to the islands. Later the Spaniards later called Las Islas Filipinas, after King Philip of Spain.

But by 1521 Islam had already been established in the islands for more than 250 years. Muslim sultans ruled the islands, including Manila. They exercised sovereignty over a large swath of islands from Luzon to Mindanao. Spain tried to conquer the entire Philippines after defeating the Muslim rulers of Manila in the latter part of the 1500’s, but were not successful in conquering the Moros in Mindanao.

It was, therefore, first a political clash and secondly a religious clash, as the Spaniards tried to conquer and convert the Moros by the sword and Cross. The Moros successfully resisted the Spanish attempts through the next four hundred years to conquer and convert them. The historic bias and prejudice between Muslims and Christians were born and deepened in these years of armed conflict.

In 1898, the Americans defeated the Spaniards in the Spanish- American war. The minoritization of Moros in the land of Mindanao which they had owned and and ruled for six centuries began. Government programs opened up Mindanao to waves and waves of Christian migrants from the central and northern islands of the Philippines. In the space of less than fifty years, from 1920 to 1965, the majority Muslims became a minority, limited in territory to what is at present the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

In the early 1970s the revolutionary MNLF took up the cause of Moro independence through armed warfare. Terrorism (the Abu Sayaff and later the BIFF and Maute groups) arose when peace negotiations between successive Moro liberation fronts and the government failed.

Hence, the Moro fight against infidels emerged from Christian attempts to conquer and convert the Moros. They then also attempted to do the same through armed jihad against the Christians.

The escalation of jihadism from the Middle East to the Philippines was first a political one, as the ummah ( Muslim spirit of brotherhood) attracted Filipino recruits to fight against foreign invaders in Afghanistan and Iraq. The religious factor became prominent in the emergence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq and later of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

For the Philippines then, a clash of civilization is not applicable to explain terrorism. Neither is a hatred for Christians the reason for terrorism if considered apart from the political history of conquest. For in general despite deep seated biases and prejudices, ordinary Chistians and Muslims in the Philippines live together in relative harmony and peace. Even in the Maute siege, Muslim employers helped their Christian workers to safety, while in Iligan Christians assist Muslim refugees who fled from Marawi.

 3. Inter-Religious Dialogue and Hope in the Reality of Terrorism

Given the reality of terrorism in Mindanao it is my belief that inter-religious dialogue (IRD) is not only possible but also necessary.

At present there are IRD movements in various parts of Mindanao. At the regional level, the Bishops-Ulama Conference meets regularly. This body consists of Catholic Bishops, Protestant leaders and Muslim ulama. It meets quarterly to discuss social concerns of mutual interest and sometimes conduct a dialogue of theological exchange. It initiated a Mindanao Week of Peace that is celebrated all over Mindanao during the season of Advent.

Other dioceses have replicated the Bishops-Ulama Conference and now hold similar group IRD discussions involving Priests and Religious, Protestant pastors, Muslim ulama and imams, including lay people of different religious traditions.

With the tragic reality of terrorism, IRD has become more imperative and indispensable. It is the task of religious leaders to address the root causes of terrorism, especially false beliefs of their respective constituents about others, the mutual biases and prejudices that are deep-seated and sometimes explode into the open when social disputes, crimes, and violence occur.

Such tasks of correcting erroneous beliefs and eradicating or least substantially reducing biases and prejudices have to start from early childhood through parenting at home, through informal and formal education, in religious schools, and through simply being together in ordinary day-to-day dialogue of life. Such dialogue takes place in markets, offices, in schools, in work places, in the streets.

While it may not be possible to dialogue with terrorist themselves, their religious scholars could convince them of their erroneous Qur’anic interpretation. But many Mindanao terrorists and disillusioned youth could be dissuaded by political action, specifically the early government approval of the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that expresses the basic aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination in their own territory under the sovereignty of the country.

Peace and reconciliation, therefore, are not impossible. There is realistic hope despite terrorism. Ordinary Christians and Muslims want to continue living in peace.

 4. Filipino Joy in the midst of Poverty

Even in the apparent hopelessness of poverty, Filipino faith is deep and resilient. We believe strongly that everything, every time and season, fortune and misfortune are in the hands of God. Everything depends on God’s will. In misfortune and disaster Filipinos do grieve deeply but also have the ability to laugh, rather than curse the darkness.

The Filipino spirit of united voluntary cooperation, bayanihan, also helps promote joy. The poor help one another. Thus poor farmers do bayanihan, planting and harvesting.

They welcome one another with warm hospitality. The strong family kinship is transported abroad where poor overseas Filipino workers missing their families back home greet one another kuya (brother) or ate (sister) thus reducing homesickness and giving one another some sense of family joy.

Such are some cultural and religious reasons that create the Filipino spirit of joy in the midst of poverty and daily struggles for a better life.

 

+Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato, Philippines

 

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May Atty. Boy Rest in Peace

Homily:  Mass of Christian Burial of Atty. Marcos “Boy” Risonar, Davao Memorial Park, 14 June 2017

 

07risonarThis afternoon we come together in Eucharistic celebration to lay to rest Atty. Marcos “Boy” Risonar.

It is ironic that in a moment of such intense bereavement we come together in “celebration.”  His passing is the painful loss of a son, a father, a husband, a brother, the untimely death of a champion of the poor, a fighter for human rights, an advocate of genuine land reform, a revolutionary driven by a love for the downtrodden and a desire in God’s name to bring justice to each man and each woman in our troubled society.  As those who genuinely champion social justice and are willing to pay for it as he did in detention are rare, it is difficult to call this gathering a “celebration.”

Yet that is what it is.  God has called Atty. Boy to himself, and though we may wish to re-write his life story to give him more time with us, to allow him to serve his beloved farmers through his labors in the Department of Agrarian Reform a bit more, and to enjoy the care of his mother, the love of his wife, the blossoming of his children, and the smiles, laughter and affection of his grandchildren a bit more, the Lord seems to have had other plans.  When his cancer could no longer be contained, God called him to himself, possibly to spare him more pain, or possibly to spare the family more suffering, but more probably simply to bring him earlier to his eternal reward in heaven.  Jesus said, whatever he did for the wronged laborer, for the struggling fisherman, for the toiling peasant, for the mother, wife, child or grandchild whom he loved, that he did for him.  We celebrate because despite our loss, we are filled with hope that to him the Lord, the Judge of the universe, will say:  “Come, you who were blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and your gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. … For whatever you have done to one of these the least of my sisters and brother that you have done to me.” (cf. Mt: 25:31-46).

We gather in celebration.  But ours is Eucharistic celebration.  Atty. Boy participated in this Eucharistic celebration many times in his life, regularly in the parish church of St. Paul, and recently for the Simbanggabi Novena as Christmas approached in the Chapel of the Assumption of the Ateneo de Davao University.  At these Masses that are one with the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord,  Atty Boy fulfilled that which his baptism entitled him to do together with the Christian Community: he offered to his Father the Body and Blood of Jesus; he participated in and so became part of the Paschal Mystery by which death is dealt its death blow, so that all who believe in Christ might live not unto death but unto eternal life.  Ultimately, this is why, even in our moment of bereavement, we can speak of celebration, Eucharistic celebration.  It is through this Eucharist that we know Atty. Boy redeemed, pulled into the life of the Trinity, and one now with the Father and the saints of heaven.

As we lay him to rest, we wish to thank the Father for all the blessings we received through Atty. Boy as a revolutionary, a fighter, a public servant, a loving member of the family, a friend.  As we lay him to rest, through the community of the Church, may we not forget his goodness.  Instead may we carry on that which God left undone for us to carry on.  The harvest is plentiful but the laborers like Atty. Boy are few.  Pray God the Lord of the harvest to send us into the fields.

resonar2

 

 

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Independence from Irreligious Extremism

philippine-independence-dayWe observe the 119th anniversary today of Philippine Independence in a somber mood, recalling the bravery of our soldiers in Marawi, and especially of those who sacrificed their lives that we might continue to be free.  As we solemnly recall the names of the fallen soldiers at noon today, let us honor the invitation of the military leadership to pray in gratitude for their lives.   Let us honor them in caring for their bereaved families, their weeping widows and children.

170531-philippines-foreign-fighters-siege-cheat_kyrdosThe flag of an independent Philippines is to fly over Marawi today.  We pray that this mean a cessation of the use of military force that has taken lives not only of the enemy but also of our own.  Such may indeed have been necessary considering the malevolent ideology, masquerading as religion, that drives these rebels to irrepressible hatred, cruelty and murder of Christians and Muslims alike.  Their number includes not only Filipinos but foreigners fighting here for an Islamic State.  We pray that their defeat in Marawi restore peace in Mindanao and the entire Philippines.

We pray further that peace lift martial law in Mindanao, fearing that a protracted martial law, not exempt from scandalous abuse, threatens the very peace it hopes to attain.    In resolving to protect this peace, we recall Pope Francis’ words to the leaders of Egypt last April. “Peace is a gift of God, but also the work of man.  It is a good that must be built up and protected, respecting the principle that upholds the force of law and not the law of force.”

While the country 119 years ago may have celebrated independence from Spain, our celebration of independence today must be from religious extremism and intolerance.  Pope Francis describes the world situation of today as “a world war being fought piecemeal” in explosions of terror and packages of violence throughout the globe.  Bombs explode and blood is shed in a football stadium or in a rock concert, targeting not armored combatants but innocent children. Innocent lives are taken not only by grenade launchers and missiles, but by speeding trucks and murderous vans.  Here Pope Francis says, “it needs to be clearly stated that no civilized society can be built without repudiating every ideology of evil, violence and extremism that presumes to suppress others and to annihilate diversity by manipulating and profaning the Sacred Name of God.”

We Filipinos, Catholics and Muslims, but also Buddhists, Protestants, Aglipayans, Iglesya ni Cristo, Born-Again, must understand and repudiate this ideology, this fabricated set of ideas, that is not religion.  It does not connect us to God, whom all religions recognize as a God of compassion.  Instead, it manipulates and profanes the Sacred Name of God, who is a source and guarantor of life and love.  It manipulates: it uses “God” to carry out the evil designs of some human beings.  It profanes:  it drags the Sacred Name of God in the bloodied mud of human politics and conflict.

In this context, Pope Francis states further:  All of us have the duty to teach coming generations that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, does not need to be protected by men; indeed, it is he who protects them.  He never desires the death of his children, but rather their life and happiness.  He can neither demand nor justify violence; indeed, he detests and rejects violence (“God… hates the lover of violence”: Ps 11:5).  The true God calls to unconditional love, gratuitous pardon, mercy, absolute respect for every life, and fraternity among his children, believers and nonbelievers alike.”

It is not we who protect God from evil, but God who delivers us from evil.  The “God” therefore who “commands” or “wills” violence, destruction and death, especially of children, be they Christian or Muslim, theists or atheists, is a false God, a fabrication of evil and irreverent minds, who have yet in God’s mercy to encounter the true God.

Speaking to leaders of differing religions, Pope Francis says, “It is our duty to proclaim together that history does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice.  History does not forgive those who talk about equality, but then discard those who are different.  It is our duty to unmask the peddlers of illusions about the afterlife, those who preach hatred in order to rob the simple of their present life and their right to live with dignity, and who exploit others by taking away their ability to choose freely and to believe responsibly.  It is our duty to dismantle deadly ideas and extremist ideologies, while upholding the incompatibility of true faith and violence, of God and acts of murder.”

This Philippine Independence Day, as we reflect on Marawi and even on Davao, and on the property and lives wasted there through irreligious extremism, let us commit ourselves to independence from this extremism.  Our universities, colleges, and schools, public and private, shall have to work harder at this. So to our churches, our temples, and our mosques. Let us renew our commitment to mature religious freedom which recognizes not only my freedom to worship God through the religion of my calling but rejoices in the freedom of others to worship God as God calls them in the truth of their conscience and heart.  Let is remain faithful in worshipping a compassionate God whose genuineness is indicated in the advancement of the human community, the elimination of social injustice, and the flourishing of all in the human community.  Let us serve a human community that recognized itself diminished if it does not bow down before this God of Compassion and love.  And let us thank God for our common home in an independent Philippines.

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Walk Humbly with your God

[Address to the ADDU Faculty General Assembly at the Start of SY 2017-18, Finster Hall, June 5, 2017]

It is my privilege to welcome you all – from our GS, JHS, SHS, our tertiary –level undergraduate Schools, our Graduate School and our Law School – to our General Faculty Assembly for SY 2017-18.

Last year we gathered for this assembly in the euphoria of our newly-elected President from Davao, Rodrigo Roa Duterte.  Most of us joined our voices enthusiastically to the proclamation, “Change is coming.  Change is here.”

Hopes and Disappointments

marawi 1Today we come together acknowledging that change has come.  For many of us, however, not quite the way we had expected it.  We had hoped that through President Digong peace would come quickly to Mindanao.  We did not expect the fierce explosion of ISIS-oriented violence in Marawi; we did not expect the subsequent proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.  With martial law imposed and the steel determination of our troops to quell the Maute uprising, we did not expect victory would be so difficult.  After all, we had the advantage of numbers; we had guns, we had helicopters, we had rockets. We certainly did not expect eleven soldiers killed due to “friendly fire.”

war on drugsWe had hoped that through this President, who had publicly acknowledged that we must rectify the “historical injustice” that had been committed against Filipino Muslims, it would be relatively easy to carve out – finally – a genuinely autonomous region for the Bangsamoro People, as the Constitution mandates.  But even as the new Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has completed a new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), we did not expect that the discussion of the Bangsamoro would be overshadowed by the national and international concerns with the aggressive government war on drugs, however necessary, the extrajudicial killings, the incarceration of Sen. Leila de Lima, the death penalty and the prospect of a federal state.  We had hoped that the President who had banned mining in Davao and who had appointed Gina Lopez to serve as Secretary of the Environment would be more resolute in his duty to protect the environment.  We did not expect that despite his allies in the legislature he would not be able to support her confirmation in the Commission on Appointments.  We had hoped that our President, who had described himself as a socialist, would be able to make clearer strides toward social justice in the country.  We had hoped that there would be more focus on addressing the economic, social and anthropological causes behind the ongoing conflicts in Mindanao.  We did not expect the stress on infrastructure and the Build, build, build! agenda of expensive roads, bridges, trains and the like, necessitating more and more taxation. We had hoped that asserting the Filipino identity and mission on the world stage would have been easier.  We did not expect the President would have to dance precariously between the crushing legs of international elephants, China, Russia, the European Union, and the the United States,  with the difficult personalities Trump, Xi JInping and Putin, in representing the interests of the Philippines and of ASEAN.

Prayers for President Duterte

duterte prayWe come together today sobered by the hopes and disappointments of the past year, convinced all the more that we must continue to pray for the President, for the success of his administration, and for a deeper understanding of the role we must play in building the Philippines of peace and prosperity that we yearn for for Davao and especially for Mindanao.  Prayer is necessary.  The political will of a strong President is important, but we have been reminded in the past year that evil is not eliminated in our world by a Presidential curse, nor are the follies, foibles, vulnerabilities, self-interests and corruption of politicians, civil servants, policemen, soldiers, the private sector done away with by the President’s angry resolve to eliminate them. We have been reminded that politicians fumble, that military officers err, that soldiers die and human blood is squandered, and that some things in this world can be eliminated only by prayer and fasting .  We have also been reminded that in a world where the effects of evil and sin are palpable in our personal and public lives, the safeguards that we have in a constitutional democracy, the separation of powers and the bill of rights are essential for the well being of our shared human society  and salutary for even a good President to recall he was not elected to the position of God.  We have been reminded that our society is not to be reformed by the political will of one person, nor of one administration, but by the free cooperation of all deciding together to cooperate towards the achievement of the common good of all.

Vision of the Common Good

ambisyon natinAmbisyon Natin 2040 is the administration’s articulation of the common good.  It is a fundamental vision of where this administration would like to take us within one generation.  Ambitioned is a society without poverty, without drugs, where all are well-educated – “smart!” – and all live and work together in peace.  Envisioned is a society where families can get together on weekends using public transportation to enjoy family life.  Envisioned therefore is not only a society where public transportation really works, but an economy where all are working productively in the Philippines.

Inspiring as this may already be, we must ask ourselves how we are to contribute to the fulfillment of this vision from the perspective of our own vision and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University.  Does the fact that we are a Jesuit and Catholic university compel us to alter Ambisyon Natin 2040 based on the diversity of faiths that we encounter, the need for inter- and intra-faith dialogue between and among peoples of different religions, the need to guarantee the practice of religion within a state-guaranteed secular sphere.  In our vision of the future, how is the economy to be driven:  through an engine of unbridled  consumption decried in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si! or through a sensitivity for the limitations of the environment?  In our vision of the future, what is the crucial roles that basic and higher education must play in eliminating the poverty, in creating the wealth for equitable distribution, in stopping the violence, in taming the consumption, in forming the men and women who are to shape this future as its professionals and leaders?

As elated or disappointed we may be with the change that has come and the leadership that has brought it about, we must find our response in a more faithful implementation of our vision and mission as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino university.  That involves critical commitment not only to Ambisyon Nation 2040 but a graced re-commitment to the Kingdom of God led by Jesus who says, “I come to bring life, life to the full.” (Jn 10:10) and a re-commitment to the Philippine Jesuits’ Roadmap to Mindanao which seeks to better serve the Kingdom of God in the Mindanao.  But it may also invite us to a deeper commitment to the instructional and formative goals of the university.

Organizational Changes in ADDU

To help ADDU better function as a university, the Board has made certain organizational changes as of its meeting last May 13, 2017.  First, it has created the position of Executive Vice President and appointed Mr. Jeremy “Bong” Eliab to that position.  The administrative line functions over which VP Eliab has directive powers are now defined, even as he continues to serve as my alter-ego in helping me run the university.  Second, it has created the position of Vice President for Finance and Treasurer and has appointed Mr. Jimmy Delgado to this position.  He will continue to watch over the finances of the university and see to our financial health institutionally.  Third, it has created the position of Vice President for Planning and Quality Assurance and has appointed Ms. Suzette Aliño to this position.  After her 15 years of serving the GS as headmaster, Suzette will now help me with the implementation of the Strategic Plan and all the Quality Assurance exercises of the University, including the PAASCU surveys.  She will help keep us all honest.  But she will do so with a smile!  Finally, the Board has also re-appointed me as your President for another year, or, as is our custom, virtually for another term of three years.

With VP Suzette Aliño now in my office,  our GS has a new Headmaster in the person of Ms. Roselle Niña Libron, fondly called Pop.  As Atty. Meong Cabarde undertakes special studies in De la Salle University to align him better to teach political science,  we welcome Mr. Mark “Macoy” Samante as the new chair of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC).  We also welcome Ms. Mylai Santos as the chair the new university-wide Ecoteneo.

With the appointment of three new Vice President’s, Dr.  Gina Montalan, the Academic Vice President has told me she no longer feels lonely. But with the organizational restructuring, the Board has approved that the Academic Vice President will not only take care of academics on the tertiary level but also on the level of basic education, especially to oversee the horizontal and vertical articulation of the academic programs of the different units as required by the K-12 reform. In implementation of the new core curriculum of the college she is also to make sure that the academic offerings are in appropriate resonance with the formative offerings  of the University in coordination with the University Ignatian Spirituality Office under Mr. Elvi Tamayo and the formation officers of the basic educational units.  This means that even with our formative offerings in the university – our retreat work, our recollections, our counseling services, our programs of worship and prayer – we must seek to assure ourselves as educators that we are succeeding through appropriate objective metrics.  I recognize gratefully the efforts that are being done in this direction spearheaded by Fr. JBoy Gonzales, SJ, and I request your cooperation here.

Greatest Contribution to the National Situation

addu gradBecause of the serious challenges coming from the national situation, I ask all to appreciate more deeply that our greatest contribution to the national situation and its transformation is our graduate –not just our graduates with Latin honors or with special medals of distinction, but each and every Atenean who enters into the world with the tertiary-level diploma.   Unto this effort, our GS must feed into our JHS, which must in turn feed into our SHS, which must in turn feed essentially into our collegiate programs.  Those who enter our system from schools other than our own must be able to benefit from the instructional and formative inputs of our school through appropriate remediation programs.

Clearly, the responsibility to form graduates who are educated leaders for the common good – “ADDU sui generis leaders” – who express their faith through commitment to justice, who positively contribute to belief in a secular world, who are able to engage in dialogue with peoples of different faiths and cultures and work for peace, who live out and promote environmental stewardship, who produce wealth and ensure its equitable distribution, who work for and with vulnerable communities for their development, who serve the Roman Catholic Church or the faith community of their calling, and who promote educational reform, does not belong just to the AVP and the academic administrators.  It is a shared responsibility of the entire Ateneo de Davao community where for each of the elements of the profile the instructional and the formational inputs are articulated on the various levels of our overall thrust towards achieving this type of graduate.  This includes clear content on Mindanao, its indigenous peoples, both Islamized and non-Islamized, and its experience of colonizers and settlers from the north.  We don’t want a graduate who at the end of his or her  Ateneo de Davao experience is unable to account for him- or herself, that is, unable explain how he or she has grown at the Ateneo not only as a professional but as a human being in Mindanao, to articulate what his or her vision of a future for Philippine society might be, and what his or her role is in achieving that future.  We don’t want a graduate who only dreams of going abroad or of just helping his or her family.  We want graduates who live their faith and their convictions, who go to Mass and pray regularly, who dream of eliminating poverty, of volunteering for service in the peripheries, of creating wealth for all, of serving the nation, of working for peace, or entering public service for all.

Thank you therefore for the work you have done and are continuing to do in working on the tertiary-level interdisciplinary core curriculum.  This core curriculum, based on our profile of the ADDU graduate, will deliver the essentials of Jesuit education because it is not just a number of required academic units (36+5) but because it presumes formational inputs and builds on the instructional and formational outputs of basic education, especially that of Senior High School.  Thank you also for what you piloted last year and shall be formally introduced this year as a requirement for college graduation no matter the course:  the Integration Program to help prepare all our graduates in their actual reflected commitments in life as graduates of the Ateneo de Davao University.  It is these graduates that shall be our best contribution to the national situation.

Meanwhile, allow me to express our delight at the robust enrolment of the ADDU Senior High School – with 2000 learners just accepted into 11th grade.  Welcome also to the 75 newly-engaged teachers and formators of the Senior High School! Thanks to the SHS community under the directorship of Mr. Rikki Enriquez, we are the SHS of choice in Davao and among the biggest in Mindanao.  We look forward to a historic graduation of the ADDU SHS at the end of this year!  Meanwhile, the Board has approved all the means necessary to complete the SHS for 4000 learners in Bangkal next academic year, when the operation in the Jacinto campus shall begin to return to normal with freshman acceptances again into collegiate courses.  As this school year unfolds in Jacinto, I ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation in coordinating the parallel operations of the SHS and of the Colleges.  Even this morning, I would have liked to have used Martin Hall for our Assembly, but SHS needed to use it for their orientation of 2000 new learners.

On National Educational Reform

1At this point, since educational reform is part of our ADDU mission, may I share with you that I end my seven-month stint as Chair of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) next week, even though I remain President of CEAP for another two years and a half. Two important things happened during my stint as COCOPEA Chair:  first, the new cordial relationship between COCOPEA and the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).  This was the first time in Philippine education history that Public and Private HEIs came together on their own, and the experiences were salutary.  We all discovered that we share the same passion for quality education for the Filipino student, and the same concerns for funding, academic freedom and quality assurance.  We expect the COCOPEA-PASUC meetings to continue.  Second, was the passage last week by Congress of the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” also a first fruit of the COCOPEA-PASUC partnership. The Act, expected soon to be signed into law by President Duterte, grants free tertiary education to qualified students in SUCs, and public TVIs but also establishes a Tertiary Education Subsidy through the Unified Financial assistance for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) which provides students opting for private schools with subsidies for tuition and fees equivalent to tuition and fees in local SUCs, and loans for other uses (like a top-up for the difference between the initial subsidy amount for tuition and fees and the actual amount required for tuition and fees in private HEIs, allowances for personal needs, board and lodging and the like).   Funds will be part of the General Appropriations Act.  The Presidents of COCOPEA and PASUC are now part of the UniFAST Board.

Foci in Working for the National Common Good

While our graduate is our greatest contribution to the national situation, that does not free us from continuing to work for the national common good here and now. Here, in the light of current national challenges, I offer the following foci:

We must strengthen our commitment to peace in our instruction, formation, research and community engagement.  We must distinguish between Filipino Muslims who genuinely love peace from a deep sense of their Islamic faith, a religion of prayer and peace,  and the workings of a violence- hate- and death-driven Salafi-Wahabi ideology which most Filipino Muslims reject.

We must strengthen our collaboration and cooperation with Muslims and peoples of all religions towards a common good of mutual acceptance and shared purpose in building our human society in the Philippines.  This includes our management of the Madaris Volunteer Program, our Mindanao Peace Games, our efforts towards improved education in the ARMM and even among the TBoli of South Cotabato.

We must in the diversity of religions of our society deepen our understanding of and love for religious freedom guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and recognized by differing religions.

From the unique perspectives of our different faiths, we must understand the inner relationship between a compassionate God and the well-being of the human being and human society, and how a “god” that compels the killing, maiming, and destruction of human life is a false God, and how the human being that has no relationship to God is a diminished human being.

We must deepen our sense of the historical injustices done to the Muslims and Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao.  In this context we congratulate the editors and compilers of the book fresh off the press of the ADDU Publications Office, Mindanao Muslim History: Documentary Sources from the Advent of Islam to the 1800s.  This includes: Mr. John Harvey Gamas, Dr. Mansoor Limba, Dr. Anderson Villa, Mr. Janor Balo, Ms Ma. Janua Cunanan, Dr. Heidi Gloria, and Mr. Ramon Beleno III. This volume collects primary sources which document the historical injustices done to the Islamized Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao over centuries.  Another pedagogical tool is the Mindanao-Sulu Historical Timeline, a CEAP project led by Fr. Albert Alejo and Ms. Pauline Bautista, in which a number of our faculty members collaborated.  Deeper understanding of the historical injustices should help commit us to healing through a restoration of justice.

We must strengthen our commitment to the national peace process led by the Office of the President for the Peace Process.  I have been informed by Datu Mussolini Lidasan, Director of our Al Qalam and commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), that the newly-completed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is being signed this morning.  We must once again commit ourselves to an evaluation of this draft and as we judge possible work for its enactment by Congress.

Despite the current strained relationship between the Philippine government and the NDFP, we must continue to urge peace to stop the killing of Filipinos.  A study of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform would be necessary.

Since President Duterte himself has stated that he would be the first person to lobby for the lifting of martial law should it no longer be necessary, we must continually monitor the conduct of martial law in Mindanao and work for its lifting soonest.  The military solution – which creates martyrs and collateral damage – tends to work against a lasting solution and often exacerbates the problems it wishes to solve.

With others in the Philippines we must reject a martial law that would return the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship that was viciously anti-people.  We do not understand the current martial law to be imposed towards undermining democracy in the Philippines.

In this context, we must strengthen our commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

caid helplineAs an expression of this, we must continue to contribute to the War Against Drugs in the quiet service of the ADDU Center Against Illegal Drugs (CAID) under Mr. Roawie Quimba through its Hotline 24/7 under nurse Apple Alvarez,  its community rehabilitation work in 26 barangays under Dr. Melba Manapol, its legal information drives under Atty. Arnold Abejaron, and its research into the drug industry in Mindanao under Neil Pancho.

We must continue to relentlessly promote the common good where all in society flourish as human beings.  This means promoting the conversations, discussions, research and outreach among ourselves and with our alumni, friends and partners in advocacy that clearly promote the common good.

Among the clear demands of the common good is the protection and preservation of the environment for all.  As in love, this is accomplished less by words but more by deeds which transform our personal and collective  values and behavior so that we can work transformatively on the environment.  For this, we will rely on the transformative leadership of Ms. Mylai Santos and the ADDU-wide Ecoteneo.  We must also support efforts towards the increased use of renewable energy through the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology.

Against poverty we must create wealth and see to its equitable distribution through entrepreneurship, innovation and sound business management.  Against government inefficiency and corruption, we must support efforts to strengthen the managerial skills of our local governments.

 

In the Holy Spirit

Finally, one the day after the great feast of Pentecost and at the outset of a new academic year, we beg the Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University responding appropriately to the national situation.   Towards this end, the Spirit whispers what the Lord requires:  “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah, 6:8).

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Towards Rectifying Philippine History and Historical Injustice to Filipino Muslims

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 10.24.30 PMIt is my privilege as president of the Ateneo de Davao, but also as president of the CEAP, to welcome you to this double launch:

The first launch is that of the Mindanao-Sulu Historical Timeline.  This is an out-of-the-box pedagogical tool – a huge tarpaulin – intended as a contribution to correcting Philippine History and the way it is taught.  It highlights the importance of events and historical personalities from Mindanao and Sulu heretofore neglected by the Manila-centric or conqueror-centric receptions of Philippine history.  It is a project of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines made possible by the generous support and funding of the World Bank, the leadership of the Jesuit anthropologist, Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, the management of Ms. Pauline Bautista, and the knowledge of hundreds who contributed to the participative research that made this project possible.   Ms. Mary Ann Cruz of CEAP will tell us more about this project later.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 10.24.03 PMThe second launch is that of a product of Ateneo de Davao scholarship done in the same spirit of improving Philippine history and curing it from its general ignorance of Muslim  History in the Philippines.  The name of this book is:  Mindanao Muslim History:  Documentary Sources from the Advent of Islam to the 1800s, compiled and edited by Mr. John Harvey Gamas, Dr. Mansoor Limba, Dr. Anderson Villa, Mr. Janor Balo, Ms. Maria Janua Cunanan, Dr. Heidi Gloria and Mr. Ramon Beleno III – all of the social science cluster of the College of Arts and Sciences of the ADDU.

The volume introduces and comments on primary sources: on Islam and the Rise of the Sultanates in Mindanao, on the Spanish Colonial Intrusion in Mindanao, and on the Decline of the Sultanates in Mindanao.   It promises to be a rich source of historical insight and reflection into Philippine History in general, but especially during this important juncture of our national history today, as we seek to appreciate the deep religious and cultural roots of Islam in Mindanao-Sulu, and therefore in the Philippines, and to appreciate the historical injustices visited on the Mindanao Muslims by the Filipino Government and Filipinos over-identified with a proselytizing brand of missionary Christianity that was too ready to look down on Filipino Muslims who stood faithful to Islam as second class Filipinos, if not second class human beings.  It hopes therefore to contribute to greater understanding of the Filipino Muslim, to promote reconciliation, and advance the national peace process which, consistent with the Philippine Constitution, undertakes to carve out a genuinely autonomous region for the Bangsamoro in the Philippines.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 10.25.56 PMBr. Karl Gaspar, CSSR, Dean of the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Intsitute, will deliver an assessment of the book.

We are deeply honored by the presence this evening of members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and all its member commissioners, including our own Datu Mussolini Lidasan of the ADDU.  We are also honored by the presence of His Excellency Abp. Fernando Capalla and Abp. Antonio Ledesma of the Bishops’-Ulama Conference, the members and supporters of the ADDU Al Qalam Institute  for Muslim Identities and Interreligious Dialogue in Southeast Asia, the Salaam Movement, the Salaam Youth, the represntatives of the Indonesian Consulate in Davao and of all of our friends from within and beyond the ADDU community.

As we also hope that this book will be a valuable source for the education of Filipinos, we are honored by representatives of the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

Once again, welcome to all.  As we join our Muslim brothers and sister in the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan and their Iftar this day, we pray for God’s blessings and peace on all.

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