By Samira Gutoc
When I entered a Church last year, I was bashed endlessly, and as time goes by, I was validated by Baguio Muslim religious entering a church in a show of force to protect it from any extremist attacks.
Our society is already divided. Social cohesion is necessary, we all need to belong in a society which must acknowledge various identities. Muslims may not believe there is Christmas but they are reminded if not ordered to be tolerant and respect religious rites of their Christian brothers and sisters. One verse in the Holy Qur’an must be spread, it states, “To you be your religion, to me be mine”.
And if we do not greet Happy New Year as Muslims, we do recognize that our majority population celebrates it. Anyway, we can remind our Christian friends that we also have our Amon Jadid per the Islamic lunar calendar which is now the year 1441.
What we often overlook are the many similarities between Islam and Christianity even Judaism, which are all named People of the Book by Islam. Salam in Arabic which means Peace, and it sounds so similar to Shalom of the Jews.
Just like Mary or Mariam, Jesus is also revered in Islam. Although we view him as a Messenger and Prophet, we Muslims also believe in the miracle of his birth. We recall at the center of Jerusalem, in an area about twice the size of the Mall in Washington sit three major holy sites: the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in the world for Muslims; the Western Wall, part of the holiest site in the world for Jews; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the place where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, died, buried and resurrected.
Isn’t that an irony that where Jesus went and healed once upon a time is now the areas of tension between Israel and Palestine? The bloody conflicts here affect children and the images are shocking.
Seeing Palestine children suffering inflame sentiments of being discriminated among Muslims. At our YMPN Prayer Gathering at Ayala Centrio last week at Macau, we prayed for understanding and end to persecution of minorities around the world. We not only pray for peace but do things together as Muslims and Christians.
Year 2020 is significant that the Pope and Vatican declared it be the Year of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue. Foundations which support interfaith work and multi-culturalism must be the embraced this 2020 because one way to prevent violent extremism to hire peoples from various faiths.
I quote the 2012 CBCP Pastoral Letter which described what the year 2020 entails: Ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue requires building bridges rather than walls as we focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. This means recognizing that we are brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends, fellow Filipinos. This requires finding ways to carry forward the dialogue of life and faith as well as the dialogue of action. There are common issues that we need to address together: poverty, drug addiction, the armed conflict, human rights violations, extra-judicial killings, environmental destruction/climate change, natural calamities, etc.
As the Church celebrates 2020 as the Year of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue, there is a need to look back and seek forgiveness, reconciliation and healing for the wounds that resulted due to the absence of tolerance and dialogue. It is also important that we appreciate the achievements over the last 50 years and continue what has been started and search for new ways and form in carrying out the dialogue of life, prayer and action in our time and the decades to come.