The Church's Role in Inter-Religious Dialogue Locally
Several [Inter-Religious Dialogue] IRD initiatives at the local level are also closely connected with the BUC.One of these is the Ustadz Imam-Priests-Pastors Forum (UPPIF), established in the dioceses of Davao and Kidapawan, which obtained funds with the assistance of the BUC Secretariat. Focusing on Culture of Peace training and peace education, the UPPIF brings dialogue to the grassroots, and has also included comparative studies of Islam and Christianity, municipal peace forums, and “election formation” (public education regarding elections). Members of the UPPIF are observers of the BUC, and in the words of one priest, it “implements what the BUC talks about so it is more realistic.” Diocesan inter-religious dialogue activities are reportedly most extensive in Davao, where IRD has gained momentum over the last 10 years, and where, beginning in 2007, all parishes will have an orientation to IRD. Catholic seminaries in Davao have also institutionalized IRD activities; since 2000, 10 to 15 seminarians per year have spent five days living with families in Muslim communities through the Peace Orientation and Immersion program, which has received very positive feedback from participants.
Excerpt from Brenda Fitzpatrick, The Mindanao Bishops-Ulama Conference, in Mark M. Rogers, Tom Bamat and Julie Ideh, eds. Pursuing Just Peace: An Overview and Case Studies for Faith-Based Peacebuilders (Baltimore: Catholic Relief Services, 2008): 117-131.
The all-out-war in 2000 which displaced over a million civilians in Mindanao brought the church in Pikit through a painful process of soul searching. The parish, which was very exclusive at that time, was divided whether or not to extend humanitarian assistance to Muslim evacuees who were mainly families of rebels and whom the Christians considered as their enemies. It was only after a passionate debate among council members that the parish decided to break the walls of apathy and mediocrity remembering the command of Jesus in the Gospel that tells them to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and the exhortation of Jesus that “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it unto me.” (Mt.25:31-46)
Roberto C. Layson, OMI, FIELDS OF HOPE: Inter-religious dialogue and peace-building: story of the Church in Pikit, presented at the International conference on Church Inter-religious Dialogue and Peace-building sponsored by Catholic Relief Services and the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies held in Davao City, Mindanao, The Philippines, October 21-26, 2007, p. 1.