CBCP Document : Pastoral Statement on the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

Sr Cecilia Espenilia OP with Muslim girl in Luneta. - NJ Viehland Photo

Sr Cecilia Espenilia OP with Muslim girl in Luneta. – NJ Viehland Photo

GUIDE OUR FEET INTO THE WAY OF PEACE (Lk. 1:79)

Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of the Philippines on the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

To All People of Good Will:

Peace be with you! With this greeting of peace we as religious leaders share with you our thoughts on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Our Perspective as Religious Leaders

Our first stance is to listen and discern. We will especially listen to those who are directly affected by the BBL, those living in the Bangsamoro, the Muslim majority and non-Muslim minorities. We will listen to those who support the BBL and to those who oppose it. We will listen to those who believe that there has been a lack of consultation. Further, we will listen to those outside the proposed Bangsamoro territory — Muslims, Christians, Indigenous Peoples, peoples of other religious persuasions. What we receive we shall present to officials concerned.

Our overriding concern is the common good of all Filipinos. We believe that concern for the common good is also that of the negotiating panels, MILF and government. After so many years of grave discussions replete with turns and stops, they have finally reached an agreement which they believe is the basis of a just and lasting peace. We do not propose any specific political or ideological blueprint for peace.

We are not political negotiators or political officials. We are not constitutionalists or lawyers. We refrain from delving into the constitutional issues raised by many. We leave those to constitutional experts to argue and to the Supreme Court to decide.

Our mandate as religious leaders is altogether different. Ours is to proclaim, as Jesus did (Eph. 2:16), “glad tidings of peace.” Our specific concerns are the religious and moral imperatives of peace. That perspective is as always our viewpoint as religious and moral teachers.

Peace is God’s Gift

And this is the most fundamental religious teaching about peace that we share with you. Peace is God’s gift. It is given to those “among whom his favour rests” (see Lk. 2:14). It is “through the tender mercy of God” that we are led to peace by “the dawn from on high” (see Lk. 1:78=79). And Jesus himself said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn. 14:27).

Because peace is God’s gift, we need constantly to pray for peace, the peace that God desires for all of us, the peace that reconciles us with one another, with God, and with all His creation. This is the kind of peace that we wish and pray for when we greet one another: Peace be with you. Salaam. Shalom.

Peace is in and of the Heart, Peace is Harmony

Peace is fundamentally in the heart, of the heart. Peace is harmony. Peace is unity. Peace is reconciliation. Peace is mutual forgiveness among peoples.

A peace agreement may be signed between the government and the Moro *(Islamic) Liberation Front (MILF). Armed conflicts may cease. But if hatred or desire for revenge or dislike or aversion consumes the heart, if deep historic biases and prejudices remain, the eruption of violent conflict is simply simmering below the surface of apparently peaceful co-existence.

Peace Comes with Justice

Peace is not the fruit of a mere handshake or an embrace. Peace comes with justice. Peace is the assurance of respect for fundamental human dignity and human rights. For the Bangsamoro, justice means the recognition of their centuries-old aspiration for self-determination, their right to chart their own destiny in dignity and freedom. For the whole country justice requires the acceptance of the overarching right of national sovereignty and national territorial integrity. For Indigenous Peoples in the Bangsamoro, justice means respect for and protection of their right to their ancestral domain already officially recognized by the Indigenous Peoples Right Acts (IPRA). For non-Muslim and nonindigenous inhabitants in the Bangsamoro, justice is a recognition and protection of their fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom and property rights. Pope Francis in his message at Malacanang emphasized this when he said: “I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”

Some Concerns of Justice

Some of these rights may be inadequately or inappropriately articulated in the BBL. Many believe, for instance, that a time-free 10% requirement to have a referendum for inclusion into the Bangsamoro will effectively expand the Bangsamoro territory through the years because of the sheer force of population immigration. Others see the need for a clear elaboration of the Bangsamoro exclusive right over education so as not to endanger the nature and purpose of Christian religious educational institutions. Still others are concerned about the ambiguous concept of contiguity by water, and see dangers of a Bangsamoro territory slowly expanding through time.

Many are also disturbed that there is a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation with regard to certain provisions of the BBL, as for instance, the provisions on land. Presently attempts to grab land or drive away their lawful owners by force of arms and even by murder, under the pretext of ancestral domain, are creating fear and tension, among certain communities in the Bangsamoro. The reported rise of shadowy civilian militias for self-protection recalls the tragic past of “Ilagas” and “Blackshirts” in the 1970s. This is totally unproductive and ironic when we understand the BBL as a promise of peace and harmony.

Such concerns we bring to the attention of MILF and government peace negotiators, as well as of legislators who are tasked with refining the draft BBL.

Peace Comes with Fairness and Equity

We all desire that the provisions of the BBL express fairness and equity. For this reason we hope that the BBL will ensure equal opportunity for integral human development for all the peoples in the Bangsmoro. We desire a BBL that will respect various cultures, religious beliefs and traditions. We wish to be assured that the BBL will provide equal access to educational, economic, political benefits and resources.

It would be a travesty of fairness and equity if, for instance, jobs are denied to capable persons simply because of ethnic, cultural, religious or gender considerations. Discrimination would be a direct contradiction to the fundamental Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination that responds to deep feelings of neglect and marginalization.

Peace is Unity through Dialogue

Isaiah the Prophet spoke of a messianic time when the Word of the Lord shall come to the people. “They will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Is. 2:4).

We are at the cusp of a new Mindanao history when arms of destruction are replaced by productive tools for human development, when men trained for war are trained for wise and prudent governance. In some countries innocent civilians are persecuted or even killed, their homes devastated, places of worship destroyed. May this not be so in our country.

We, therefore, commend the consensus decision of both negotiating sides for the decommissioning of military forces and arms. We also pray that the form of government in the Bangsamoro will unite the different cultures together for the common good. We appeal to emerging political parties that they effectively remove the neglect and isolation of the poor from decision-making and make them active partners for their integral development. We ask legislators to ensure that the provisions of the BBL as well as their implementation will be forces of solidarity and not of division.

We make a special appeal to all sectors, groups, and political movements of the Bangsamoro to come together in dialogue towards a consensus position on the BBL.

Dialogue is the way to peace, not the use of arms. This has been the experience of successive negotiating panels on both the MILF side and the government’s. From hostility to openness, from aggressive onesidedness to mutual respect and understanding, from contestation to trust and friendship – this is the road of authentic dialogue. When the encounter of persons from opposite sides is authentically human, it is the Spirit of the Lord that draws them together finally as friends. And friendship is an expression of love — “the common word” for Muslims Christians, and peoples of other religions.

Final Pastoral Observations and Recommendations

In the light of the above moral and religious considerations:

1. We commend the perseverance of the negotiating panels of both the government and the MILF that, even with changes of key personnel through the years, persevered in the peace process, changing the nature of tense and troubled negotiations into trustful dialogue for peace.

2. We commend the realism of the MILF vision to dialogue towards self-determination while respecting and preserving national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

3. We appeal to Congress to sift objectively and wisely through the results of their Mindanao-wide consultation and ensure that the fundamental Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination be effectively enshrined in the final BBL, together with the twin national principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

4. We strongly recommend that the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the non-Muslim peoples in the Bangsamoro – Christians, peoples of other faiths, and Indigenous peoples — be respected and promoted as already enshrined in existing laws, such as property rights and the IP ancestral domain.

5. We recommend the inclusion of a provision in the BBL that would make it impossible in the future for any radical extremist group to exploit or change the democratic framework of the Bangsamoro government so as to deny both the doctrine and practice of religious freedom.

6. We pray to our Lord God for wisdom for our legislators so that they would keep in mind the good of the Bangsamoro and the common good of all Filipinos.

Conclusion

We believe that regarding the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao we are, with a significantly improved BBL, truly at the threshold of a just and lasting peace. We place our concerns of peace in the hands of our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Peace, so that through her maternal intercession her Son, Jesus who is himself our “Peace” (Eph. 2: 14), may always be with us “to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan January 22, 2015

*reprinted from CBCP News, with correction
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Pope Francis appoints Quevedo papal envoy in Japan ‘hidden Christians’ anniversary

 NJ Viehland Photos

NJ Viehland Photos

Vatican City, 17 January – Pope Francis has appointed Filipino Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the “hidden Christians of Japan”, to be held in Nagasaki March 14-17, Vatican Information Service reported.

Catholic missionaries St. Francis Xavier of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)  with Cosme de Torres and John Fernandes  arrived in Kagoshima, Japan in 1549, to spread the word of God. Eventually, the number of Christians rose to about 300,000 including members of the aristocracy, but by the beginning of the next century, Christianity was banned in the country and in 1612, the faithful were forced into practicing their beliefs in hiding. 

The “hidden Christians” are locally known as Kakure Kirishitan.

Today, about half a million Japanese identify as Catholics; roughly 0.5% of the population. There are 16 dioceses around the country. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo wrote last year about his church’s plan for the March anniversary celebration. Archbishop Okada said the existence of these Christians who kept their faith under severe persecution was revealed at Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki. He expressed his hope that Pope Francis would join the commemoration.

“We would be deeply grateful if Pope Francis would encourage us in deepening our faith and conveying widely the message of faith to others. We also expect that a visit by the pope would be an occasion for promoting and advancing inter-religious dialogue in Japan,” Archbishop Okada added.

The pope would be just coming from pastoral visits to Sri Lanka and the Philippines by the time of the Japan event. He chose to send Cardinal Quevedo as his representative .

The 75 year-old cardinal has been called a “powerful voice for inter religious dialogue” between Muslims and Christians especially those in Mindanao where an autonomous region with predominantly Muslim populations sits.

Quevedo also headed the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) from 2005-2011. The Japan bishops’ conferences is a member of the voluntary association of bishops’ conferences in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quevedo: Dialogue in Asia and Francis’ dialogue

 NJ Viehland Photos

Former officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao greeted Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato at a dinner celebration in Cotabato of his birthday and creation as cardinal. NJ Viehland Photos

MANILA, PHILIPPINES
It is very encouraging that we are on the right track — that we are not a church apart that thinks differently from the pope, from the universal church – Orlando Quevedo.
Full report Quevedo: Francis’, Asian church’s definitions of dialogue are the same N.J. Viehland  |  Jan. 14, 2015
Asian Family buddhist hindu catholic NJ Viehland

Congress on Asian Family with Buddhist monk, Hindu mother and Catholic evangelist Bo Sanchez. NJ Viehland Photos

Why Pope Francis’ supposed “revolution” isn’t new for some in Asia, Part 2

“The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.” – Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ

children watch priests march Ed Gerlock

Manila scavenger children watch priests rally / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com

continued from Part 1 

Evangelization through “Triple Dialogue”

According to the statement issued by the first plenary assembly, “Evangelization is the carrying out of the Church’s duty of proclaiming by word and witness the Gospel of the Lord.” The assembly resolved to use dialogue as the approach to evangelization in Asia where Christians comprise only two to three percent of the population in most countries.

This thinking has persisted through the decades and infused programs and initiatives that have gained recognition from inside and outside the organization. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, a Salesian who served for many years in India’s troubled northeast region and currently chairs the FABC’s Office of Evangelization, is widely quoted for advocating an approach that involves “whispering the Gospel to the soul of Asia.”

FABC X Menamparampil Capalla

Indian Archbishop Thomas Meamparampil [front leftmost] sits next to retired Filipino Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, Dec. 2012, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

In the same spirit of dialogue, FABC-sponsored Radio Veritas Asia  today broadcasts programs with Gospel and moral values that attract non-Christian listeners. The station’s program director says its Myanmar service’s Burmese-language section listeners are predominantly Buddhists.

Asian Family buddhist hindu catholic NJ Viehland

Asian Conference on the Family 2014, Manila / NJ Viehland Photos

FABC documents have detailed an approach to evangelization through dialogue at three levels: with a people’s culture (inculturation), with a country’s religions (interreligious dialogue), and dialogue with the poor.

Subic,NJ Viehland

Indigenous Aeta youth at Franciscan sisters’-run school in Zambales, Philippines / NJ Viehland Photos

Children share corn Philippines Ed Gerlock

Philippines children share corn / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com

Fruits and challenges

 The FABC has explored various visions of how to deliver the Gospel to Asia. Apart from its Central Secretariat, it addresses regional concerns in a more focused way largely through its nine offices. Each of them shines the spotlight on a particular concern: evangelization, human development, theological concerns, interreligious dialogue, social communication, education and faith formation, clergy, consecrated life, and laity and family.

 Over the years, the FABC offices have organized activities addressing concerns related to the formation of basic communities, and the situation of youth and women. Last year, it conducted a seminar on climate change and produced FABC Climate Change Declaration.

Legarda BEC prayer by NJ Viehland

BEC members of Legarda urban poor community pray the rosary before meeting to discuss their housing and relocation concerns / NJ Viehland Photos

Marikina, NJ Viehland

Flood in Marikina, NJ Viehland Photos

“The most important fruit of the FABC so far is the gathering of all the bishops of Asia and providing them with a venue where they could share joys and problems,” Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the emeritus archbishop of Manila who worked with the former FABC commission on the missions, said in an Aug. 25 interview before the assembly.

FABC X / NJ Viehland

from left Cardinal Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh, Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampiln and Philippines retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales who served as Pope Benedict XVI’s papal legate in Vietnam, 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

FABC offices organize seminars and formation programs of various types and content, including some that are called Bishops’ Institutes. Many involve exposure trips to host countries. Cardinal Rosales quoted fellow bishops from India and Indonesia who expressed appreciation for such trips, especially those whose dioceses cover areas troubled by armed conflict. He also cited problems with clergy in areas where local Churches could use the FABC’s help. “Without the FABC, individual local Churches would find it hard to solve problems that are shared by other Churches,” he said.

 NJ Viehland Photos

Former officials of the Autonomous Region on in Muslim Mindanao under Moro National Liberation Front leaders joined celebrations for the birthday of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo in Cotabato City and his confirmation as cardinal / NJ Viehland Photos

The cardinal also acknowledged the help that the FABC offers in the formation of priests. “Instead of sending seminarians to Rome and other places in Europe, we were able to arrange through our contact in the FABC further studies of Asian priests and training of seminarians in the Philippines and other countries,” he pointed out.

Theologians have praised the scope and depth of theological reflection documented in FABC publications and FABC Papers. The challenge Father Felix Wilfred presented in volume 1 of the book “For All the Peoples of Asia,” remains “implementing the grand vision of the FABC.”

Pabillo, Egidio / NJ Viehland Photos

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila with lecturer in Islam Abdulhusin Kashi at Sant’ Egidio-organized anti-death penalty dialogue in Mandaluyong City, 2014/ NJ Viehland Photos

Change has already been “very large,” Father Arevalo observed. “I have seen the changes and I am happy with the changes. Now we have many bishops who are very much alive to the problems of the country. Before, it was always in the devotional area only. Not that that is bad. It is very good. But it is not enough anymore in the modern world,” he said.

The renowned theologian acknowledges it is a waste to keep valuable FABC theology in books. “The books have to be read. The books have to be studied. The books have to be lived. The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.”

END

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

Cardinal Quevedo: Church’s shared mission of portraying God’s love, justice and peace

 

Quevedo Ateneo Award NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato in southern Philippines accepted Sept. 16 the Bukas Palad (open hands) Award from the Jesuits’ Ateneo de Manila University. In his response, he reminded people attending the special school convocation that every member of the Church shares in the “common mission” of showing others that God loves them and plans to let truth, justice and peace prevail.

Following are excerpts from Cardinal Quevedo’s message delivered after he accepted the citation from Ateneo President Father Jose Ramon Villarin,

 

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Sept. 16, 2014, Quezon City - by NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Sept. 16, 2014, Quezon City – by NJ Viehland

… Most profoundly I thank the Ateneo de Manila University, its Board of Trustees, its distinguished president Fr. Villarin, and the Awards Committee for this meaningful award. I am deeply humbled by the award.
Quevedo citation Ateneo NJ Viehland
For forming me to be a missionary to the poor, my vocation which is the basis of this award, I thank my religious congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). To portray the Lord’s Gospel to the poor, to be specialists in difficult missions… that is the charism handed down to every Oblate by our founder Saint Eugene de Mazenod. 
This is the reason that we Oblates of Mary Immaculate have chosen to work among the people of Maguindanao, Tawi-tawi and Sulu.

Quevedo Ateneo Bukas Palad NJ Viehland

Most of all I thank the Lord, the giver of all good gifts. Everything that I am, everything that people say I have merited because of certain modicum  of skill or talent, everything is simply and absolutely God’s gratuitous gift.
All is grace, said Saint Therese, and that quotation also was given also by our mathematician.
I’m afraid to sit beside her …after…if I pass addition, then I can do the rest….She quoted Rahner – quite understandably, she quoted a Jesuit … 

Quevedo Ruiz Ateneo Awards NJ Viehland

Yes, everything is grace. There are no surprises. There are no coincidences. And if coincidences are really signs of God’s providence, then truly providential it must be to be made an Oblate cardinal and receive honors in this year of the Lord 2014, the 75th year of Oblate missionary presence in the Philippines. We will wait for our own suppression. Then we will celebrate restorationIt is also the 50th anniversary this year of my priestly ordination.
But from a wider perspective, this award reminds us of our common mission to portray God’s reign of salvation. God’s reign of justice and peace, of truth and love, particularly for the poor and the marginalized. Let us all keep our mission focus as priest and bishop. “The reign of God,” “the reign of justice and peace.” That perspective is indeed deeply related to the Christian identity – my identity and yours. To be Christian is nothing more and nothing less than to be disciple in mission.
This is the emphasis given to the Christian identity by our own pope – Pope Francis [another Jesuit. At least we now know that there is an infallible Jesuit.]
For being a missionary disciple is to tell the story of Jesus – the God made poor for our sins. Jesus who walked and lived among the poor, Gentile or Jew, to be ultimately their peace.
The dialogue of Jesus with a non-Jew, the double negativity of being a Samaritan and a woman…
I’m very happy that there is finally a woman awardee for Lux in Domino Award for the Ateneo. It’s a good beginning for the Ateneo. (I am a Jesuit product, so I can make jokes about them…)
The dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman has to be a paradigm for building harmony and peace in our country today. We live in the cusp of Philippine history where just and lasting peace in Mindanao is in the final stages of realization – of mutual respect and understanding, persistence, patience, the wisdom of peace negotiators the past thirty years are God’s gifts for the peace process.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo's birthday guests included former Muslim autonomous region officials - by NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo’s birthday guests included former Muslim autonomous region officials – by NJ Viehland

When finally peace will have been realized, whatever contributions I may have given to it, and to the integral development of indigenous peoples and poor farmers in my own Archdiocese of Cotabato, all those are God’s gifts that we may be in solidarity with one another day by day, my dear friends – solidarity among us peoples of different cultures and beliefs as we live. Saint John Paul II has observed, “The fruit of solidarity is peace.”
Once again, thank you very much.

Iglesia ni Cristo anniversary draws ‘thank you’ from Aquino, guidelines from Catholic bishops

preached at the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and his creation as cardinal by Pope Francis  last Feb. 22. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato preached at the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Cotabato’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and his creation as cardinal by Pope Francis last Feb. 22. – NJ Viehland Photos

President Benigno Aquino III  celebrated with a throng of members and friends in events related to the centennial of homegrown Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, Church of Christ) whose teachings contradict Catholic doctrine, a Catholic bishops’ primer on the INC says.

INC celebrated the centennial of its foundation on July 27 mainly in Philippine Arena, a 55,000-seater dome arena legally owned by its New Era University. 

Iglesia officials said more than 1 million people joined their celebration in the arena in Ciudad de Victoria (Victory City), a 75-hectare tourism complex it built in Bocaue town, Bulacan province just north of Manila.

Aquino in his address to  the July 22 gathering of members and friends for the arena’s inauguration thanked the group for the service the arena and the group provide Filipinos.

Officials of INC  endorsed the candidacy of Aquino and his vice president in the 2010 elections. Regarded among “influential” religious groups in the country, INC rules that its 5-8 million member voters  elect its leaders’ choices. 

Last week, House Representatives endorsed the third impeachment complaint filed against the president over use of discretionary funds that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional.

Iglesia Ni Cristo was registered in the Philippines on July 27, 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo, a Catholic who became a protestant preacher then established his own religion after claiming to be  the last Messenger of God. The group does not publicize the number of its members in the Philippines and abroad.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, who heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith had  issued in March a primer  explaining conflicting beliefs of the Catholic Church and Iglesia ni Kristo.

The document hoped to offer guidance particularly to catechists and Catholic educators and formators.

“The respect we give to the religious beliefs of others should motivate us to get to understand those beliefs deeply, as this is demanded by the requirements of sincere dialogue. Differences in what we believe in do not make us distant from those who hold those beliefs, because as J. Maritain put it, among ideas contradictions are inevitable, but not among persons,” Cardinal Quevedo wrote.

Notheless, he stresses, “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are serious and deep differences between the Christian Faith and the doctrines of the Iglesia ni Cristo.”

Read A Primer on the Beliefs of Iglesia ni Cristo with the full text of Cardinal Quevedo’s introduction