COTABATO CITY – In Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the January 24 Peace Day, 11 Muslim and 7 Christian religious leaders in Mindanao, together with Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., convened in Cotabato City on January 16 to 17 for a significant dialogue meeting and joint statement on the bombing incident during the Catholic Mass at the Mindanao State University - Marawi on December 3, 2023.
The released joint statement marks the initial collaborative communication among the religious leaders following the ‘barbaric’ incident. The statement aimed to address the concerns about security which raised questions about the sustainability of the peace process between Christian and Muslim communities in Mindanao.
"We are comforted and inspired by the mutual assistance of Muslims and Christians given to the victims in the aftermath of the bombing, a sign of continuing fraternity amidst violence. We pray that such assistance, given especially by the national and local governments, would significantly contribute to the complete healing of the trauma suffered by the victims and their families," the statement said.
As the leaders come together, their dialogue played a pivotal role in shaping the narrative of interfaith relations and reinforcing the importance of harmony among diverse religious communities. The meeting is not only an opportunity for healing but also a crucial step towards building a resilient and peaceful society in the aftermath of such tragic incidents.
Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) said, "On behalf of OPAPRU we will always be supporting the interfaith dialogue... to revive our interfaith dialogue with our brothers and sisters. Rest assured that the Marcos administration and with the Special Assistant to the President, we will make way to revive all the things that we have started. And I would like to thank all the religious [leaders] for really guiding us on the way towards peace. We will always be with you in really promoting peace and development in Bangsamoro and also for our Filipino brothers to have lasting peace in our country."
The lead convenor, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), is an international peace organization that has been conducting interfaith dialogues around the world since 2014, as one of its core initiatives. HWPL facilitated the meeting in commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the January 24 Peace Day, which was declared by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim to acknowledge the civilian-led peace agreement signed between Muslim and Catholic leaders in 2014. The agreement was mediated and proposed by Korean war veteran and HWPL Chairman Lee Man-hee.
In the statement, the religious leaders also expressed, "Our heart-felt thanks especially to the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), for generously supporting and facilitating our dialogue. Our assembly is a concrete expression of the objectives of HWPL through its Religious Peace Academy (RPA) to promote inter-religious dialogue towards harmony and peace by means of quality scripture education, rooted in the teachings of the Glorious Qur’an and the Holy Bible."
The RPA is an interfaith academic platform launched by HWPL where lectures of religious leaders on fundamental topics can be accessed by the general public for free. It aims to foster a culture of peace, harmony, and unity among all religions through scriptural studies.
"I think this [Religious Peace Academy] is very important because it is like a merchandise. There are people looking for this, they enter and enroll, and it is free. It is very important so that both can better understand peace," said Dr. Muhammad Nadzir S. Ebil, Bangsamoro Darul-Ifta' in a press conference. PR