By Michael Aaron Gomez
The Ateneo de Davao University graciously and warmly welcomed Wednesday, 14 August 2019, Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) for a one-day conference titled “Walking and Working Together for Healing and Reconciliation” at the 11th Floor, Calungsod-San Vitores Jesuit-Lay Collaboration Center, Community Center of the First Companions, Jacinto campus. Other participants included Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., DD, of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro; Fr. Roberto C. Layson, OMI, of the Diocese of Cotabato; Prof. Moner Bajunaid, Secretary General of the National Ulama Cooperation of the Philippines (NUCP); Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub, Vicariate General of the Prelature of Marawi. Completing the roster were representatives of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), Mindanao Catholic Church Leaders for Peace, delegates from different peace centers, and representatives from the University, led by President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J.
Having been initiated in light of the signing of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” by His Holiness Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb last February 2019, the conference began by discussing this same document, which was led by Fr. Tabora.
“This document is a document that rejects, in the name of religion, any form of violence,” Fr. Tabora said. “It’s a document which accepts, from both religious leaders, religious freedom, and it’s a document which embraces diversity, accepts the fact that we are different, in such a way that being open to another person’s religion strengthens my own religion.” Fr. Tabora also noted, “I’m very happy because this [document] has been accepted.”
Following this discussion was the Pakighinabi (or “dialogue”) session on The Adoption of a Culture of Dialogue as the Path – “Being Inspired by Bapa Benny’s Spirituality and Dialogue of Life,” led by Fr. Layson, with Sec. Galvez and Prof. Bajunaid serving as initial reactors. After this discussion came a Conversation on Reciprocal Understanding as the Method and Standard – “Listening Session on Best Programs on Interreligious Dialogue,” which was led by representatives from the University’s Madaris Volunteer Program (MVP), the Salaam Movement, and Catholic Relief Services.
Finally, the participants convened for the planning session titled Mutual Cooperation as the Code of Conduct – “Planning for Healing and Reconciliation in the Bangsamoro,” where they presented strategies for further cooperative peacebuilding efforts among the various stakeholders gathered in the hall.
The conference ended with the acceptance of all parties of the “Document on Human Fraternity.” Prof. Bajunaid said that he would be presenting the document to the ulamas; Davao Archbishop and head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Romulo Valles has also accepted the document anew and will present it again to the Philippine bishops; and the OPAPRU, through Sec. Galvez, has also followed suit and will be presenting it to the government. “He’s [Sec. Galvez] really saying this can be the document that brings us all together,” Fr. Tabora said.
The conference aimed to gather Christian and Muslim religious leaders to discuss the “Document on Human Fraternity” and to adopt it as a working framework for joint initiatives and to design and implement joint programs and projects for healing and reconciliation in Mindanao.