Philippines debating the law to give more autonomy to Islamic south

Read story: Draft Law Brings Hope, Faces Challenge of Religious Extremism

Tapatan sa Aristocrat - Bangsamoro Law, (l-r) Melo Acuna, Retired Commodore Rex Robles, Atty. Anne Basman, former DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III - by NJ Viehland

Tapatan sa Aristocrat – Bangsamoro Law, (l-r) Melo Acuna, Retired Commodore Rex Robles, Atty. Anne Basman, former DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan III – by NJ Viehland

 

Bangsamoro table Basman 2014 09221

Bangsamoro table Rex Roblesm2014 09221

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No surrender of “love of God” in educating Filipinos – DepEd Sec De La Salle Bro. Luistro

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education - FaceBook Photo

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education – FaceBook Photo

Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro, a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) denied reports that the department he leads has surrendered its vision of learners formed to be “God-loving,” as claimed in various media reports on the department’s revised statement of vision, mission and values (VMV.)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the same day  issued a statement lamenting the silence about God in the reworded version of the  vision statement.

Brother Luistro explained the new statement of the department’s VMV in a post on the DepEd’s website Friday, Aug. 29. He stressed that the statement of vision, mission and values must be taken in its entirety. Doing so would show that the term “God-loving” remains as a value that the department seeks to promote as stated in the word “Maka-Diyos”, its synonym in Filipino language.

He said specifying the formation of students who are  God-loving, pro-people, pro-environment and patriotic allows values education teachers to develop modules that will form persons of integrity who live out their faith and convictions, while avoiding pietism or ritualism.

“We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners.”

He also affirmed the constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. He said the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue.

Brother Luistro’s complete statement reads:

On 4 September 2013, I released DepEd Order No. 36 s. 2013 in order to update the Agency’s directions and further strengthen our capacity to fulfill our constitutional mandate.  The review of our Vision and Mission was anchored on the Filipino Core Values of *Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa as articulated in Section 40, Republic Act 8491. [*pro-God, pro-human being, pro-environment, patriotic]

Recent media reports have mistakenly attributed to me claiming, “the God-loving phrase was removed from the department’s vision to be fair to Filipinos who may subscribe to other beliefs and principles”. I had not issued any statement to that effect. This attribution is completely false.

Other articles refer to a Christian advocacy group whose spokesperson “aired the group’s dissatisfaction over what it believes is a rash decision on DepEd’s part that had been influenced by some members of the non-religious sector.”  Other local news articles referred to a group claiming to have pressured the Department based on an open letter that they posted on 5 February 2013 via their Twitter account.  I have not had the occasion to interact with any of these groups on this matter.

As early as 2010, discussions on the revision of the VMV were initiated within the department. A series of consultations was conducted with key persons in various levels of the organization, including the regions and school divisions.

It is important that the DepEd’s new VMV be regarded as one document to be appreciated in its entirety.

The term “God-loving” is synonymous with Maka-Diyos. The term Maka-Diyos is essentially connected with Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa and allows our Values Education teachers to develop modules that will hopefully form persons of integrity.  It warns against pietism or ritualism and encourages persons of faith to live those convictions everyday, everywhere.

We maintain that the formation of God-loving learners is a vision that we have not surrendered. We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners. We affirm the long-established constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. We also affirm that the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue, as this is a part of learning to live together.

************

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – NJ Viehland Photos

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia 

CBCP President on the 2013 Version of the Vision Statement of the Department of Education

The Department of Education recently re-worded its Vision Statement.  In the past, the department tasked with the formation of our children once envisioned “functionally literate and God-fearing Filipinos”.  Unfortunately, in its 2013 version, there is no more mention of God, nor of the salutary fear of Him that, Scripture tells us, is the beginning of all wisdom.

A vision statement is not an empty platitude.  It guides the articulation of policy.  It orientates plans of action.  While maka-Diyos remains one of the Department’s core-values, we maintain that the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”  This is what Vatican II teaches in “Gravissimum Educationis“. 

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. - NJ Viehland Photos

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. – NJ Viehland Photos

The right of a child to recognize God, to love him and to hope in him cannot be harmful to anyone else, believer or not.  Our pluralistic society indeed accords respect for the option of some to believe and for others not to. This respect for pluralism does not compel civil society to expunge the name of God from public life, especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence. Furthermore, the attitude of our laws in the Philippines towards religion is characterized as’benevolent neutrality’: the accommodation of religion whenever such accommodation does not offend law or public policy.

We exhort our Catholic laity in public elementary and high schools to be zealous in the apostolate of forming pupils and students. Do not get tired of teaching that God is the beginning and the end of all things, that he is the Father who wishes all to have life, and to have it to the full! 

This, our dear public school teachers, is your particular mission in the life of the Church, the dignity of your calling as evangelizers within the world and its concerns.  It is a challenge of particular urgency in this, the Year of the Laity. Stand up for God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

August 29, 2014, Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS   

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan  

President, CBCP

************

At least 20 million students enrolled in public pre-school to high school in school year 2011-2012 and 3 million reportedly enrolled in private schools for those levels.

 
 

 

CBCP President’s appeal for prayers, aid to suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria – Full Text

Most people who joined the 2012 Grand Mission Congress in Marikina City last April were students, teachers, professionals and workers from the youth sector. (N.J. Viehland Photos)

Youth hold hands in prayer at Mass, April 2012 Grand Mission Festival, Marikina Sports complex- NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has called on Filipino Catholics to offer prayers and funds to aid people who are suffering in the hands of militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

Archbishop Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan in a statement posted Aug. 27 on the portal of Manila archdiocese’s Veritas 846 radio said aside from displacing, killing and torturing people, the violence by Islamic State and other militants in Iraq and Syria supposedly to build an Islamic nation, has defaced religion.

He appealed to Filipino Catholics to “counter the defacement of religion” by practising mercy, compassion and love. He also appealed to Philippines bishops to collect money to help victims, assuring that the CBCP will see to their delivery to appropriate Church authorities in Iraq and Iran.

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ appeal posted on Veritas 846

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. – NJ Viehland Photos

Before a horrified world, militants, without compunction and in utter mercilessness, beheaded journalist James Foley. He may not have died for the faith, but he certainly died, a person of faith, we are told by those who were with him in his last days. Pope Francis sent his grieving family a personal message of condolence. We join our prayers to those of our Holy Father that James may find solace in the bosom of our Loving Father.
James is one of the thousands who now suffer because of the ruthlessness of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and militant groups of like persuasion and brutality. We should be particularly appalled that children have not been spared. Among the bodies that the rampaging onslaught has left in its wake are those of hapless infants and children — they who are not deserving of any punishment or suffering at all! Thousands have been displaced and must now live as refugees in often squalid conditions because of those who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God.
Not only then are helpless and defenseless persons the victims of the brutal imposition of a rigid and unforgiving version of faith. Religion is as much a victim, for those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!
In the Philippines, we will do our part, first of all, to counter the defacement of religion. We will live as our Lord and Master has asked us to live: with love for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, ever forgiving and humbly asking to be forgiven, respecting the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief. “By this shall all know that you are my disciples”; by this do we pray to convince the world that faith in a God of love and mercy can still heal our world, as we trust Him who can make all things new!
But that is not enough. I appeal to our Filipino bishops take up a collection for the needs of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria. These collections will be sent to the CBCP that will see to their remittance to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Syria and Iraq. While we have our own projects in the Philippines, we cannot put these ahead of the suffering of Christians in that troubled part of our world. They have not only been evicted from their homes.
Their places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify! For many, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive. We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters from our own need.
Finally, let us be ceaseless in prayer, uniting ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who offers himself to us as our future their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. We pray that even as many of them now see no way out of the misery that has been visited on them, the God who opens paths through the sea and ways in the desert, may make a way for them to the future that can only be His gift!
August 27, 2014, Feast of Saint Monica
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

Related posts

Grieving Pope Francis phones family of slain U.S. journalist Foley
Strength from faith, Rosary – American journalist Foley slain by IS

Related reports:

Saudi Arabia Grand Mufti: terrorism has no place in Islam

Grieving Pope Francis phones family of slain U.S. journalist Foley

Pope Francis from a video screen grab after communion on the Mass at beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Pope Francis from a video screen grab after communion on the Mass at beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Pope Francis, himself grieving over relatives’ death and injury in an accident, phoned the family of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.

James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, in a television interview said the pope’s gesture was “so kind” especially since he was grieving the death of  the wife and two young children of his nephew, 35-year-old Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, in a car crash Aug. 19 in Argentina. Bergoglio was critically injured, reports Catholic News Service (CNS).

Its story Pope Phones Family of Slain Journalist reported Pope Francis called because he wanted to console the family.

US intelligence judged as authentic a video released by Islamic State (IS) militants showing the beheading of Foley.

In June, al-Qaeda-inspired forces attacked Iraq areas and since then IS has taken control of territories in Syria and Iraq aiming to turn the entire region into a caliphate (Islamic nation). IS said beheading Foley, who had been seized in Syria in 2012, was retaliation for U.S.’s recent intervention in Iraq. 

Related stories

‘Even the Pope has a family’: Grieving Pope Francis thanks well-wishers after nephew’s wife, 2 sons die in car wreck 
Grand Mufti: Terrorism has no place in Islam
Indonesia’s Counterterrorism Chief Concerned About Hate Speech

 

 

Pope Francis to visit Madhu Shrine, spend time with war victims, orphans? – Sri Lanka web news

Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

screenshot – Archdiocese of Colombo website photo

Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo reportedly announced in Madhu.

The Pope will arrive in Sri Lanka on the 13th of January 2015, and celebrate mass at the Galle Face Green on the 14th morning before heading to Mannar District in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, reported EyeSriLanka online newspaper.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered one the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, and is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph, said Pope Francis would visit the Madhu shrine during his January visit and bless the war victims at a special mass at the shrine.

Bishop Joseph along with Cardinal Ranjith blessed thousands of pilgrims who gathered there from various parts of the island for the August festival last Friday, Aug. 15 . 

“Pope Francis will be the first Pope to travel out of Colombo,” Bishop Joseph is quoted saying. The Pope is expected to interact with the war widows, disabled persons and orphans, he added.

Read EyeSriLanka report

Related posts

Concern about Pope Francis’ Sri Lanka visit mounts with militant climate vs. religious minorities
Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim clashes reveal the evil of politicising religion, Hector Welgampola
What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?
Ruki Fernando out of detention – is he free?

Sri Lanka Court stops deportation of Pakistanis

[updated Aug. 16, 11:41 p.m.]

Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal has ordered the suspension of deporting Pakistani asylum seekers back to their country, until  August 29, Colombo Gazette reported.

 Most asylum seekers from Pakistan belong to religious minorities – including Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian and Shia – who are often discriminated against and subjected to violent attacks, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, is quoted telling the Gazette.

The asylum seekers flee their country in South Asia along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, and head southeast beyond India to the island country of Sri Lanka. 

Last year, 687 persons belonging to religious minorities were reported killed in over 200 attacks in Pakistan. 

However, Sri Lanka government reportedly deports them despite being registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and having their first instance interviews still pending.

Read the full report on the court decision here 

Refugees from Pakistan reportedly obtain a 30-day tourist visa to Sri Lanka online and stay on after registering with UNHCR, which reviews their case.

 The Sri Lankan government says the Pakistanis are part of an influx of economic immigrants in the past year who have become a burden on the country’s resources and potentially compromised state and regional security.

Receiving no help from Sri Lanka’s  government, Pakistani families are driven to seek aid from the Catholic church or a mosque in the area.

Various human rights activists have written about the plight of asylum seekers in Pakistan and in Sri Lanka.

Earlier this week, Sri Lankan human rights activist Ruki Fernando decried his government’s “inhumane” response to asylum seekers and shared his personal experiences with Pakistani families in Sri Lanka.

Aside from the government, people in Sri Lanka who support repatriation of these asylum seekers “are just as deplorable,” the Catholic human rights defender added.

Read the full text of Fernando’s commentary posted on Ground Views citizen journalist blog site.

Fernando is a Sri Lankan human rights activist who participated in the protective fellowship scheme at University of York’s Center for Applied Human Rights in 2012-2013. He has been involved in international advocacy and protection of human rights defenders who are facing risk, and worked on issues such as freedom of expression and enforced disappearances. 

Concern about Pope Francis’ Sri Lanka visit mounts with militant climate vs. religious minorities

Militant actions of an ultra-nationalist group of ethnic Sinhalese Buddhists against minority religious groups in Sri Lanka are raising concern among sectors involved in Pope Francis’ visit to the island country next year, a report from Italy says.

Paolo Affato in an article for Vatican Insider online newspaper revealed growing concern over the papal visit as he discussed recent “disturbance” reportedly created by extremist Buddhist monks with other protesters against a workshop organized by Families of the Disappeared people in the 26-year ethnic Tamil separatist war that ended in 2009. 

Center for Society and Religion, an institution of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s (OMI)  Colombo Province hosted the workshop. Organizers invited about 30 families to the Center for a “sharing” with members of civil society groups, NGO and foreign diplomats on the disappearance of their relatives in connection with the war.

A joint statement of embassy officials of France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland posted on the UK government website reported that “an organized group including monks…made forced entry into the room where the discussions were taking place, shouting violently.” 

Their country’s representatives were in the  workshop venue with family members who had travelled from the Northern Province where the war with minority Tamils centered. “All those present felt that their security was under threat,” the officials at the meeting reported.

Affato in his article discussed the incident in the context of a “climate of hostility and revenge” fueling anti-Christian propaganda and violence blamed on radical Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, Buddhist Power Force). For example, days after official announcement of dates of the 2015 papal visit, the group’s leader Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thero demanded that the pope during his visit apologize to Buddhists for attrocities committed by Christian colonial rulers of the island.

However, the national movement to protect the Catholic religion in the country days later said the demand for apology is part of a plan to disrupt the papal visit, and listed other features of the alleged scheme.

The Holy See announced July 29 that the Pope would make his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka Jan. 12-15, 2015.

“These radical Buddhist groups – whose actions are fueled by fervent nationalism colored by faith and culture – have been targeting Muslims and also Christian Evangelicals and Pentecostals for some time now,” Affato wrote.

He explained, “These religious (Christian) groups are seen as advocates of a strong religious proselytism. Now, these groups (radical Buddhists) seem to be targeting Catholics as well.”

According to Affato, “This has sparked concern among bishops, civil authorities, the Nunciature of Colombo and other European embassies ahead of the Pope’s visit.” 

His article details how Buddhist extremists oppose Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka 

In their joint statement, the foreign officials declared, “The embassies of France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland strongly condemn the disruption,” of the Aug. 4 meeting.

“We strongly urge the government to ensure and respect freedom of assembly and expression in Sri Lanka,” they added. They  also expressed their hope that the government would assure meeting participants from the North of their security during their return travel.

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet spokesman , however, has reportedly accused the Western diplomats of “double standard” citing the foreigners’ condemnation of the protests against the meeting by people equally entitled to  freedom of assembly and speech.

“There is a feeling that one sector of people are being taken care by some interested parties with western interests,” Minister Keheliya Rambukwella is quoted saying.

Father Rohan Silva, Superior of OMI Colombo Province,  explained in a media statement that the meeting was part of the Center’s commitment to promote the values of democracy, defend social justice, peace and equality for all citizens. The Center has also worked to promote dialogue among Sri Lankas and non-Sri Lankans, the priest added.

Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, has urged Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar where they are the majority of the population, to stop violence against Muslim minorities. BBS rejects the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader. 

====================

Full text of Father Silva’s statement on the Aug. 4 meeting disruption follows:

As the Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Colombo Province), I wish to express my feelings of deep disappointment and frustration over the deplorable and despicable incident that transpired at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR), at 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, on Monday, August 4, 2014.

CSR is the social justice arm of the Oblate religious order and has always championed the cause of the poor and the marginalized, whatever be their race or creed. It has fearlessly raised its voice on behalf of the voiceless victims of injustice during more than 40 years of its existence. CSR’s unwavering concern has always been the liberation of the poor and marginalized people and it always remained open to whatever was good and true irrespective of its source. Its discussion forums on vital issues have always been open to diverse views. Freedom of expression has been one of CSR’s hallmarks. Since its inception, the Centre has been an open forum for all ethnic communities and religions, a haven for opinion makers and academicians, and politicians of all hues to express their views and be heard on the most crucial issues affecting the Nation and her people. It was and continues to be a centre for research and a meeting place for both the powerful and the powerless on equal grounds without fear or favour.

The said incident occurred at a workshop organized by the Families of the Disappeared with the intention of listening to and learning the agonies of those whose loved ones had been the victims of involuntary disappearance irrespective of whether they were from the North or the South. It is also worthy of note that this gathering was reserved for invitees only and a number of foreign diplomats were in attendance at this meeting.

The fact that this meeting had been organized at the CSR is of special significance in this instance. The CSR, founded by the late Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, OMI, has earned the respect and recognition of all political parties and all religious denominations as an institution that promoted the values of democracy and for years had stood for the defence of social justice, peace, equality for all citizens in every sphere of life. Even during some of the darkest moments of the Nation’s history, the CSR remained an oasis where a modicum of sanity prevailed.

It is indeed most unfortunate that these time tested values of the CSR were transgressed and its hallowed precincts violated by a group that forced itself into the premises uninvited and instilling fear and intimidation among those participating in a meeting on purely humanitarian grounds. The CSR is an organization that has created democratic space for dialogue among Sri Lankans and non-Sri Lankans as well and such space has often proved beneficial to generate discussion on social, political and economic issues and clear the air of bias and false rumours that may prove detrimental to society in general and to governments in particular. That democratic space has now being sullied by elements that contribute little to demonstrate to the world that Sri Lanka is a land where kindness and compassion are hallmarks of our national identity. We live in a world where humanitarian concerns transcend national boundaries, hence the presence of non-Sri Lankans should not be construed as external interference.

The CSR premises lie contiguous to a place of worship. Trespassing such sacred space by the use of force and unbecoming and destructive behaviour is simply a violation of the Church’s guaranteed fundamental rights and of those who use those premises for humanitarian and peaceful purposes. The CSR has always held in high esteem all religions and those espousing their values and welcomed all organizations working for humanitarian concerns. In this context, those responsible for the CSR strongly condemn the illegal intrusion into its premises and urge, in no uncertain terms, the law enforcement authorities to bring the law of the land to bear on those who have acted contrary to its tenets, irrespective of their social status.

We also appeal to the leaders of the Church and other peace loving organizations to send out a firm call to the powers that be to bring to a halt the blatant violations of the fundamental and civic rights of the citizens of this country.
Very Rev. Fr. Rohan Silva OMI
Provincial Superior,
Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Colombo Province)