Members of the College and Senior High School Community gathered at the Pakighinabi Room last 21 June 2017 for the discussion on Diversity and Religious Freedom. The event is one of the most well-attended Pakighinabi sessions. Photo by Igy Castrillo.

By Patricia Suarez

Members of the Ateneo de Davao University gathered for a Pakighinabi session last 21 June 2017 at the Pakighinabi Room, 3/F Ricci Hall, Community Center of the First Companions.

University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ,  lead discussant talked about diversity and religious freedom.

He opened the discussion by looking back at history.

“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,” he said.

He added monotheism rejects the notion of religious freedom and any person who challenges this notion can be attacked, assaulted, tortured or killed.

The lead discussant continued with a quote from Pope Francis which said: the world’s situation today is a world war being fought by piecemeal. Bombs explode in football stadiums and rock concerts. These terrorist attacks do not target just armed combatant but innocent lives as well. Children.

“No civilized society can be built without repudiating every ideology of evil, violence, and extremism that presumes to suppress others and annihilate diversity by manipulating and profaning the sacred name of God,” Fr. Tabora said quoting the Supreme Pontiff. 

Tabora also stressed that terrorists say “In God’s name I will kill you!”

He explained there is religious diversity and it is presumptuous to annihilate diversity. This fabricated set of ideas is not religion. It does not connect us to God who all regions recognize as the God of compassion. It uses God to carry out the evil designs of human beings, and it drags the sacred name of God into human politics and human conflict.

“God [the Creator of Heaven and earth] does not need to be protected by men. It is he who protects them. It is not we who protect God from evil but God who delivers us from evil. A God who wishes death upon his children is a false God,” he said.

It was also pointed out during the discussion that people were created with religious freedom. The Vatican council only recognized this 52 years ago and proclaimed the right to religious freedom on the basis of the dignity of the human person with the encyclical Dignitatis Humanae. 

The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is revealed through the Word of God and in the human person itself.  All men and women are to be immune from coercion in such way that no one is supposed to be forced to act in any manner contrary to his or her beliefs whether privately or publicly.

“We cannot discharge these obligations of seeking the truth unless they enjoy immunity from such external actions of coercion and psychological freedom,” the University President said.

“Seek the truth, religious truth. Adhere to the truth once it is known,” Tabora ended.

The Pakighinabi Conversation Series is designed to provide members of the University community a platform to discuss multidisciplinary issues and concerns in an open and friendly manner. It is a project of the Office of the University President.