sebastiano-dambraSilsilah Dialogue Movement, following a long tradition to send a message to the Muslims on the occasion of Ramadan and to the Christians on the occasion of Advent and Christmas time takes this opportunity to tell the Christians to be strong in this time of history when many Christians around the world suffer for their faith. This is true also in some parts of the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. We know that some Muslim leaders discourage Muslims to join the Christmas celebration. It was not like this before. This is an alarming sign. At the same time good Muslims and Christians suffer from this new radical understanding of relation among Muslims and Christians. It modifies the traditional way to celebrate together and share the joy of a specific religious group. Meanwhile we encourage to celebrate together Christmas and Ramadan in the proper way, we reaffirm that these are occasions to show respect and share the same joy as a sign of friendship, while each one is encouraged to be faithful to his/her faith and beliefs.

The increasing news of attack of Christian places and Christian churches in some areas in the Philippines and in other countries is alarming. Why is this happening? Celebrations are occasions to be more united as Christians and Muslims to show to all that the real relation among Christians and Muslims must be a relation of sincere friendship. We are brothers and sisters in the same humanity, although different in our religions and we are called to be in solidarity in moments of joy and in moments of suffering.

Following the message of Pope Francis we wish to remind the Christians that “Advent is a time to journey and encounter the Lord, not a time to stand still because the Pope Francis says: “Christian faith is not a theory, a philosophy, an idea: it is an encounter with Jesus…”

Pope Francis reminds the Christians: “ We must ask ourselves how we can go forth to meet Jesus. What are the attitudes that I must have in order to encounter the Lord?… I must pray, with vigilance. I must be hardworking in charity – fraternal charity, not only giving alms, no; but being tolerant of the people who annoy me, being tolerant at home of the children when they make too much noise; or of the husband or wife when they are difficult; or the mother-in-law… I don’t know… but tolerant: tolerant… charity, always, but hard-working. And also the joy of praising the Lord: ‘Exulting in joy.’ That is how we must live this journey, this desire to encounter the Lord. To encounter Him in a good way. Not standing still. And we will encounter the Lord”.

But how will the Christians be able to share all these messages if the Advent and the Christmas celebrations are often done in the spirit of the world and not in the real Christian spirit? And how can the Christians communicate this message to the Muslims and to the people of other faiths if the real message of Advent and Christmas is not properly presented?The reality of radical groups, including ISIS, that find followers in Christian and Muslim areas, is an occasion for all of us to make an “examination of conscience” and understand that, maybe, we are in this situation because we have not been able to present the real Christian and Muslim faiths that, in the variety of beliefs, have common points of goodness that can be the starting points to build a peaceful and harmonious society.