In preparation for the 12th Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference, the Espiscopal commission on Inter-Religious Dialogue and on Ecumenical Affairs jointly called for a Consultation on Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism on 14-16 April 2004, at Cursillo House, Davao City.
We, the 47 participants coming from 16 ecclesiastical jurisdictions, to this consultation, wish to share this statement with our fellow bishops, priests, religious and lay-workers throughout Mindanao.
First, we recall that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, in 1964, the first major document of the Catholic Church that dwells on dialogue – which the Holy Father describe as “dialogue of salvation.”
A year later, the Second Vatican Council completed its Key documents, among which were Unitatis Redintegratio on ecumenism and Nostra Aetate on inter-religious dialogue. These were clarion calls for Catholics to open our minds and hearts to our “separated brethren” and all members of other religions.
It is in this light that we examined the history and theology of inter-religious dialogue as well as of ecumenism in Mindanao and the Philippines. We also discussed possible dialogue themes with the indigenous peoples of Mindanao (lumad). Guided by the expertise of three resource persons, Frs. William La Rousse, MM, Ramil Marcos, and Albert Alejo, SJ, we were able to appreciate the complexity but also the urgency of dialogue with various groups and communities in our Mindanao context.
The reports we heard from our dioceses, seminaries, universities, religious congregation and peace centers have heartened us. Many constructive activities are being done at the local levels – e.g., ongoing dialogue of life and cooperation, Mindanao Week of Peace activities, tri-people youth camps, Muslim religious studies in Catholic Schools, inter-cultural exposure program for seminaries listening and keeping silence together, etc.
Yet, much more needs to be done. Inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue cannot be an activity done only by a few. It is part of the Church’s evangelizing mission and “has its origin in the Fathers’s loving dialogue of salvation with humanity through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit” (Ecclesia in Asia 29). Furthermore, it has been recognized as one of the nine priorities of the Church in the Philippines (NPCCR, 2001).
Oftentimes, in Mindanao, conflict situations have brought together various religious communities to address peace and poverty issues through dialogue. Only through a culture of dialogue can we promote a culture of peace and development. Within the tri-people context of our island, we are thus called to engage in what FABC statements have described as the triple dialogue with the poor, cultures and religious.
We should not forget the practitioners of dialogue who have gone ahead of us – such as Bp. Benny Tudtud, and lately Msgr. Desmond Hartford, SSC, both of Marawi. Neither should we overlook the martyrs of dialogue in Mindanao, including Bp. Ben de Jesus, OMI, of Jolo; Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, CMF, of Basilan; Fr. Rufus Halley, SSC, of Lanao del Sur; and Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME, of Zamboanga City.
Looking ahead, we resolve to reinforce our efforts in Interreligious dialogue and ecumenical dialogue links among ourselves and other groups. In this regard, we welcome the inclusion of many more dioceses, seminaries, schools, religious communities, tri-media, peace centers, etc. in these widening circles of dialogue.
We make the following recommendations:
Strengthen seminary formations IRD and Ecumenism
Continue formation for clergy, religious, laity on IRD and Ecumenism
Undertake research and documentation
Optimze tri-media, especially website
Expand networking with other groups
Maximize celebrations, such as Minadanao Week of Peace, Week of Prayer for Christian Churches
We move on with greater hope, our personal and communal commitment renewed through an experience of a church in dialogue empowered by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May Mary, our Mother accompany us in our journey.