Two leaders of our Time

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


TWO important meetings were held last week during my stay in Cotabato City and Maguindanao. Last April 16, 2014, Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) President, Fr Joel Tabora SJ and I went to the residence of the 1st Mindanao Cardinal, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo.

Cardinal Quevedo has been the Archbishop of Cotabato for quite some time. It was my first time to meet him personally and had the opportunity to discuss current events in Mindanao particularly in the peace processes (both the MILF and the MNLF).

Few hours before our meeting, I was thrilled to finally be given a chance to meet Cardinal Quevedo. On our way, I was picturing him wearing a red robe. But when we arrived in his residence, he was in his grey polo and brown pants.

Father Joel discussed the agenda of AdDU and the output of the recently concluded Mindanao Conversations of the CBCP, CEAP, and ECID.

He also gave books that were published by AdDU, and the two volumes of Bangsamoro: Documents and Articles. He also shared with the Cardinal our road trip from Cagayan de Oro City to Cotabato City via Iligan and Marawi where we met Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol of the Mindanao State University Iligan Institute of Technology and President Macapado Muslim of the MSU System.

I was patiently waiting for my turn in our conversation to ask Cardinal Quevedo about two things. First, I would like to ask him about the issue of social injustice that he mentioned in his message about the Mindanao problem. And, I would like to know how we, as a nation, can move forward? When my opportunity arrived, i asked him those two direct questions.

He was brief in answering the questions. With regard to the issue of social injustice he said that it was based on the prejudices and biases of the Christians and the predominantly Christian state towards the Muslims in Mindanao. Traits that they acquired during the colonial period under the Spanish rule and the Americans. On the second issue, how do we move forward, he said the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity may be a good opportunity to give justice to the Muslims and the Moro people. Hearing those words from him, made me realized that we are on the same mindset. I was happy to hear that from him.

We discussed several important points and issues on the peace processes and how AdDU and Al Qalam may be of helped, specifically on the concerns on education, inter religious and intra religious dialogue.

Our meeting with Cardinal Quevedo lasted for two hours. I was not expecting that it could be that fruitful and meaningful. When we left his residence, I felt that he knew me all along and that he is a good friend that is sincere to help resolve the conflict in Mindanao.

The second meeting was held last April 18, 2014, at 3:00 in the afternoon at Camp Darapanan of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The meeting was with Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim. The activity was facilitated by the president of the National Association of Bangsamoro Education, Inc. The main agenda of the meeting was to explore how the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), AdDU, and Al Qalam in providing assistance to the madaris within the Bangsamoro and to help upgrade their non-Islamic subjects such as math, English, and Filipino.

It was also the first time that I had a chance to meet personally Chairman Murad. Based on the information that I got from my close MILF relatives, Chairman Murad is a humble person. He is known as a true freedom fighter with scars to prove his victories in the battlefield.

When his secretary, Atty. Mohammad Amin, introduced me to him, he mentioned the name of my father, Atty. Tahir Ayunan Lidasan. Atty Amin said, "wata inia ni Atty. Lidasan" (this is the son of Atty. Lidasan). There I remembered how important in our culture to know the tarsila and the reputation of the family of every person we meet.

The meeting was held for more than an hour. Basically, after Fr. Joel discussed the key points and both of them arrived at constructive resolutions, the meeting was followed by building trust and lasting friendship. Chairman Murad was clear in his advocacy and agenda for peace. His kindness and humility radiates inside our hearts and mind.

When we left Camp Darapanan, we felt energized and with high hopes that there is indeed a chance for peace within the Bangsamoro.

Having the opportunity to meet these two leaders of our time, both grounded and humble enough to reach out to all sectors, I do hope that the Bangsamoro political entity will indeed address injustice and poverty in our land. We know that there are still dozens and dozens of challenges way ahead of us but in God's time, we can work together for peace.

I know that the crafters of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) had some misunderstandings, but with leaders like Chairman Murad and Cardinal Quevedo, we can settle our differences through dialogue and affirmative actions. We can work together.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 23, 2014.

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