Do more to stop “anti-Muslim” riots- Islamic nation reps to Sri Lanka president

Ambassadors and Heads of Mission and High Commissioners representing Muslim nations in Sri Lanka reportedly met with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees and declared that all Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhists will stand to lose their jobs in their nations and other barriers would be place on Sri Lanka immediately due to government’s failure to stop “anti-Muslim” sentiments and violence spreading nationwide.

Officials at the meeting reportedly represented governments of Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The report cites the UAE Ambassador saying that his government believes the president’s brother and Defense Secretary Gothabhaya Rajapaksa and the military’s links to the anti-Muslim sentiments and violence.

Officials at the meeting reportedly gathered by Cabinet Minister Rauf Hakeem expressed dissatisfaction and warned Rajapaksa that if the anti-Muslim riots and attacks around the island are not stopped, there will be “severe repercussions” on him and his government diplomatically and economically.

Violence persists even after the Sinhalese who comprise 74 percent of Sri Lanka’s population celebrated victory in May 2009 against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who fought a bloody 26-year separatist war.

This time police are pointing the finger at a Buddhist extremist group called Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) – meaning the army of the Buddhist power – led by ethno-fascist monks as leading the riots last week that left 4 people dead, 80 wounded and hundreds of homes and shops destroyed.

Since the outburst of riots last week, all Arab and Islamic countries have placed an indefinite travel ban on Sri Lanka. This has reportedly significantly contributed to Sri Lanka’s tourism revenue the last two years.

Sri Lanka’s highest foreign exchange earner is also reportedly from expatriate labor remittances from the Middle East and other Muslim countries, which has been the sole provider for Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves.

Imposing restrictions on Sri Lankan labour in the Middle East and Muslim countries, could send the country’s economy plunging overnight, the report said.

Last year alone, these nations provided almost US$ 2 billion in grant aid to Sri Lanka for development projects in education, medical and health care, the report added.

If Islamic countries restrict oil supplying, Sri lanka will be compelled to import from Russia at three times the price per barrel of crude oil.

 

 

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Pope Francis Holy Land pilgrimage photos from former chaplain for Filipinos

Philippine-born Franciscan Fr. Angelo Beda Ison (front right), who had served for a decade as chaplain of the Filipino community in Israel, sent CiA this photo in which Franciscans presented a plaque to Pope Francis at the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem where the pope had lunch with families from Palestine during his pilgrimage in the Holy Land on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras (May 24 – 26, 2014). - Photo published with permission.

Philippine-born Franciscan Fr. Angelo Beda Ison (front right), who had served for a decade as chaplain of the Filipino community in Israel, sent CiA this photo in which Franciscans presented a plaque to Pope Francis at the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova in Bethlehem where the pope had lunch with families from Palestine during his pilgrimage in the Holy Land on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras (May 24 – 26, 2014). – Photo published with permission.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, beside the Church of the Nativity which is dedicated to the Child Jesus. Following is the full text of his homily published on Vatican Radio’s website

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).

What a great grace it is to celebrate the Eucharist in the place where Jesus was born! I thank God and I thank all of you who have welcomed me on my pilgrimage: President Mahmoud Abbas and the other civil authorities; Patriarch Fouad Twal and the other bishops and ordinaries of the Holy Land, the priests, the good Franciscans, the consecrated persons and all those who labor to keep faith, hope and love alive in these lands; the faithful who have come from Gaza and Galilee, and the immigrants from Asia and Africa. Thank you for your welcome!

The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the sign given by God to those who awaited salvation, and he remains forever the sign of God’s tenderness and presence in our world. The angel announces to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child…”.
Today too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human. Here we can think of the work carried out by the Ephpheta Paul VI institute for hearing and speech impaired Palestinian children: it is a very real sign of God’s goodness. It is a clear sign that society is healthier.

To us, the men and women of the twenty-first century, God today also says: “This will be a sign for you”, look to the child…
The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children. He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception.

Sadly, in this world, with all its highly developed technology, great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child.

And we have to ask ourselves: Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we stand before today’s children? Are we like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus and care for him with the love of a father and a mother? Or are we like Herod, who wanted to eliminate him? Are we like the shepherds, who went in haste to kneel before him in worship and offer him their humble gifts? Or are we indifferent? Are we perhaps people who use fine and pious words, yet exploit pictures of poor children in order to make money? Are we ready to be there for children, to “waste time” with them? Are we ready to listen to them, to care for them, to pray for them and with them? Or do we ignore them because we are too caught up in our own affairs?

“This will be a sign for us: you will find a child…”. Perhaps that little boy or girl is crying. He is crying because he is hungry, because she is cold, because he or she wants to be picked up and held in our arms… Today too, children are crying, they are crying a lot, and their crying challenges us. In a world which daily discards tons of food and medicine there are children, hungry and suffering from easily curable diseases, who cry out in vain. In an age which insists on the protection of minors, there is a flourishing trade in weapons which end up in the hands of child-soldiers, there is a ready market for goods produced by the slave labor of small children. Their cry is stifled: the cry of these children is stifled! They must fight, they must work, they cannot cry! But their mothers cry for them, as modern-day Rachels: they weep for their children, and they refuse to be consoled (cf. Mt 2:18).

“This will be a sign for you”: you will find a child. The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, every child who is born and grows up in every part of our world, is a diagnostic sign indicating the state of health of our families, our communities, our nation. Such a frank and honest diagnosis can lead us to a new kind of lifestyle where our relationships are no longer marked by conflict, oppression and consumerism, but fraternity, forgiveness and reconciliation, solidarity and love.

Mary, Mother of Jesus,
you who accepted, teach us how to accept; you who adored, teach us how to adore;
you who followed, teach us how to follow. Amen

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

Pope Francis visited the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, the second day of his pilgrimage in the Holy Land. He paid a courtesy visit to President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of Palestine and addressed representatives of the Palestinian authority. Before noon, he said Mass for a throng of pilgrims in Manger Square in Bethlehem.

He had lunch with families from Palestine in the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova, before his private visit to the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Philippine-born Father Angelo Beda Ison (front left in cassock) was among religious who welcomed Pope Francis in the Franciscan convent in Bethlehem on the second day of the pope's May 24-26 pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Photo from Fr. Ison published with permission. - Catholic In Asia

Philippine-born Father Angelo Beda Ison (front left in cassock) was among religious who welcomed Pope Francis in the Franciscan convent in Bethlehem on the second day of the pope’s May 24-26 pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Photo from Fr. Ison published with permission. – Catholic In Asia

He proceeded to visit with children from Palestinian Refugee camps of Deheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin at the Phoenix Center of the Deheisheh Refugee Camp.

Pope Francis then visited Jerusalem on Monday, the last day of his pilgrimage. There he met with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, Nobel Peace Prize Israeli President Shimon Peres and chief rabbis of Israel. Highlights of the pope’s activities on the final pilgrimage day are summed up here

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Interreligious dialogue – Let a thousand documents now bloom in action!

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Interreligious dialogue – Let a thousand documents now bloom in action!

Pope Francis’ first visit to the Holy Land beginning Saturday has prompted veteran Asia Church journalist Hector Welgampola to revisit the long string of past efforts of Church leaders and offices related to interreligious dialogue and outcomes from these, why theologizing on interreligious dialogue fell short and what Pope Francis contributes to the Church’s movement towards dialogue and cooperation among followers of various religions.

Following is the full text of Welgampola’s commentary: 

Interreligious Dialogue – Let a thousand documents now bloom in action!

A Commentary by Hector Welgampola

A Jewish rabbi and an Islamic imam joined Pope Francis on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. That was more than a symbolic gesture. It brought back memories of Saint John XXIII’s wish to restore relations with Abrahamic faiths. In the early days of the Second Vatican Council, that wish made him whisper a council agenda item to Cardinal Augustine Bea. As then head of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, the cardinal had been working on the draft decree on ecumenism. Pope John asked him to include in that draft, a para clearing Jews of blame for deicide.

That was a pentecostal prompting. It helped Council Fathers see the need for a separate Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate. After Pope John’s death, Pope Paul VI set up a new secretariat to implement that declaration. The Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions, later named as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), was launched on Pentecost Sunday 1964.

Since then, PCID has held numerous conferences and symposia. Over the past half-century, such events have produced a thousand or so documents on interreligious dialogue. These days, PCID’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated worldwide, and more documents may be added to the collection. But what next?

Even amid such multiplicity of documentation, we still need to refocus on the original declaration’s historic call for “dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions.” Currently ongoing jubilations may lead to a salutary outcome, if they help evaluate the futility of sterile monologues about dialogue.

True, modalities for dialogue-based collaboration with other religionists have been discussed by Church leaders, particularly in Asia, where the major religions originated. Especially during the 1970s and 1980, various institutes (BIRA, BIMA) of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) noted that interreligious dialogue must lead to interreligious cooperation. Later on, some of these moves helped Church leaders discern that such interaction has to embrace the cultural, socio-political and economic aspects of people’s everyday life. Asian theologians urged all religions to provide a complementary moral and religious foundation for Asian societies struggling for liberation. But theologizing failed to be translated into action.

Such discernment was unproductive due to several factors. Here are a few:

* Firstly, the Church’s theological approach to dialogue still speaks a language alien to other religions.

* Secondly, absence of a mutually acceptable practical agenda for dialogue failed to ease other religionists’ long-standing suspicions about proselytism.

* And thirdly, in spite of all the documented discernment on the need to embrace the cultural, socio-political and economic aspects of people’s everyday life, the Church failed to build on people’s interpersonal collaboration already prevalent in the public square.

The public square is the venue where followers — not just preachers — of various religions live and work together. It is an interactive forum where persons of various religions witness to their respective values and develop a social ethic enhanced by cultural commonalities. It is pluralism in action. Hence, 50 years after all the theological cud chewing about dialogue, now it is time to overcome these and other hurdles to interreligious collaboration. It is time to learn from the lived witness of Christians collaborating with fellow humans in everyday life.

A small lesson about the enduring praxis of interreligious collaboration can be learned from the antecedents of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Rabbi and the Imam accompanying him on the visit are two persons who had interacted with him in the public square in his native Argentina. The grace of their interpersonal witness is now at the service of the entire Church. May this small Pentecostal flame help lead us beyond the theological maze of high-profiled dialogue!

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would  work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

Statement of Miriam Ferrer on Bangsamoro Agreement signing

Professor Miriam Ferrer, Chair, Government of the Philippines panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, briefed media at today's Forum organized by the Catholic Media Network in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Professor Miriam Ferrer, Chair, Government of the Philippines panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, briefed media at today’s Forum organized by the Catholic Media Network in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Press Briefing, Malacañang
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, CHAIR, GPH Panel
25 March 2014

On March 27 we will, we shall, sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

There is no turning back. Only moving decisively forward. The peace train is on track. Its design is complete. Most of its elements are in place.

Although it had a slow start, it eventually picked up speed.

In the last 18 months from the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012, we have produced:
–       The four Annexes – on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealthsharing, Powersharing, and Normalization
–       one Addendum – the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and the Zones of Joint Cooperation
–       five Terms of Reference for our five mechanisms – the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP), the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB),  the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), and the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC)

and renewed our TORs for the IMT and AHJAG.

And now the CAB, a  short 5-page, 12 point text that will formalize the completion of the negotiations.

The CAB puts together all signed agreements: the  FAB, the four Annexes and Addendum, also the very first, very important document, the Ceasefire Agreement of 1997; the  Agreement on Peace signed in 2001 in Tripoli which laid down the agenda for the talks; the Declaration of Continuity of Negotiations in June 2010 which picked up the pieces from the failed MOA-AD of 2008, etc…

The CAB text to be signed:

(1) Reiterates the principles of the negotiation, namely:
–       recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for meaningful autonomy through a democratic process
–       the aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro Question with honor, justice and dignity
–       the aim to end the fighting between the government and the MILF and promote peace and stability
–       the recognition of the responsibilities of the Parties to protect and enhance the rights of the Bangsamoro people and all other inhabitants, correct historical injustice, and equitably diffuse wealth and political power.

(2) Reiterates the commitment to all signed documents

(3) Thanks all those who played important roles in the process

(4) Provides the principles of implementation: Mutual respect for the right to one’s identity; continuing dialogues and consultations, leading to the establishment of a Bangsamoro government that will protect individual and collective rights, and be truly democratic, accountable and representative of the diversity of its populace; and for the parties to abide by the modalities and mechanisms provide d. Most important, to ensure the integrity of the whole process.

The whole negotiating panels of the GPH and the MILF will sign the document. On the GPH end, the signatories would be: myself; panel members Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao, Mehol Sadain; panel consultants Zenonida Brosas and Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon.

 

Undersecretary Yasmin Lao, Presidential Assistant for Muslim Concerns, will be among signatories of the Comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro on Thursday as member of the Government of the Philippines panel of negotiators with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She briefed the media at today's Forum in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila organized by the Catholic Media Network. NJ Viehland Photo

Undersecretary Yasmin Lao, Presidential Assistant for Muslim Concerns, will be among signatories of the Comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro on Thursday as member of the Government of the Philippines panel of negotiators with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She briefed the media at today’s Forum in Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros, Manila organized by the Catholic Media Network. NJ Viehland Photo

On the MILF end, the signatories would be: Mohager Iqbal, Datu Michael Mastura, Maulana “Bobby” Alonto, Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdulla Camlian and Datu Antonio Kinoc.

The Malaysian Facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed will also sign as witness.

The signing will be done in the presence of Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Dato Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Hj Abdul Razak.

It will be done in the presence of more than 1,000 people before the Palace grounds.

The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important not only for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and all other Filipino citizens who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building.

It is also our global contribution to the pursuit of peace in our immediate neighborhood, the Southeast Asian region, and the rest of the world.  The last momentous agreement of this kind was that sealed in Aceh, Indonesia between the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement in 2005.

Many other countries continue to face similar troubles. Our experience, our mechanisms, our approaches have become a rich source of inspiration to these countries that remain challenged by their respective domestic conflicts.

Moreover, our document would be unique in that it would be the first such agreement to be signed by a woman, not only as one of two chief signatories to a comprehensive agreement, but also because a total of three women – one half of the 6-person negotiating team of the GPH, and about one-fourth of the total number of signatories – would be signing it.  Happy women’s month to everyone!

The point, however, is not simply that you have women in Track 1, but that this agreement is a partnership in many ways: a partnership between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government, between and among peoples of different faiths and ethnicity, and between men and women.

And together, we can make it all happen. Together, we can make peace, not war.

That said, the historic signing is but a short station stop in this difficult but rewarding journey to build peace, attain development and exercise meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro and the other people in the parts of Mindanao that will fall under the autonomous government.

We cannot rest, we shall be moving on, full speed ahead, towards full implementation.

Thank you.