Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Extremism Shapes our Interreligious Relations and Dialogue


The second issue that now shapes our relationship is EXTREMISM in our religious traditions and communities. This has become a compelling urgency as war and new militant extremism confront nation states, faith-communities and all peoples of goodwill.  There are several slogans and names that try to capture the dangerous realities we live in.  There is the famous slogan, “Clash of Civilizations” that Prof. Samuel Huntington coined in the mid 1990’s.It is an attempt that describes the political, ethnic and religious conflicts that have intensified in the post-Cold War era. 

By whatever names they go by, they invoke the NAME of God as their rallying/battle cry in complex and many violent struggles and conflicts within that “Arc of Crisis”.

On the other hand, there is the UN initiative that speaks of Alliance of Civilizations where nations, communities and religions forge unity and partnership and new ethical norms to respond to the ills of the present and to prepare and equip the youth or the next generation for new world emerging.

From our own Mindanao experience, we have seen the ugly and violent and virulent face of fanaticism and extremism in the killing of Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, OMI – Bishop of the Vicariate of Jolo. His witness of peace and reconciliation and dialogue was a threat to then emerging Islamic Extremism and the fanatics murdered him in public and in broad daylight at the Jolo Plaza in front of his Cathedral in Jolo on February 4, 1997.

Following the martyrdom of Bishop Benjamin, another Benjamin fell victim to the virulent extremism in Sulu. Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI was shot at the back of the Cathedral with his driver on December 28, 2000. His driver survived, but Fr. Inocenio was killed instantly.

Like Bishop Benjamin, Fr. Benjamin was a Missionary to an island in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Sulu Sea – Cagayan de Mapun.  There he managed Notre Dame of Cagayan with passion and moving all resources to give quality high school education to the Jama Mapuns “physical marooned” in that remote island.

Then bullet struck again on January 15, 2008, this time in a remote island of Tabawan in the Municipality of South Ubian. Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI who spent his life in serving the poor people of Tabawan both in Notre Dame School and in the public schools was brutally martyred by ‘Extremists’ who came to his residence. Fr. Rey was yet another witness of faith, friendship, and service to the least fortunate. 

Other religious congregations have their own share of martyrs as well. The Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped the Claretian priest, Fr. Roel, with other co-workers in Basilan and they were killed brutally.  The same is true with the PIME Fathers with the martyrdom of Fr. Carzeda who was involved in interreligious dialogue in Zamboanga City. The Columbans have Fr. Rufus Halley who gave his all to the people of Malabang and Balabagan - learning the language and befriending all yet he ended up murdered.

And today, there is the raging battle (on the 46th day) of Marawi City in the Southern Philippines that has turned into a nightmare.  The extremists belonging to Dawla Islamiyya or Islamic State attacked and killed Christians and burnt Christian institutions and destroyed the Christian icons while shouting “Allahu Akbar”. 

They are holding Christian hostages – Fr. Teresito Suganob and his parishioners of the Prelature of Marawi and threaten to kill them all if the terrorists are not given “safe passage”.  While the extremists are a tiny minority, believers wishing to engage in interreligious dialogue need to draw the line between tolerance and intolerance; between exclusivism and inclusivism; between life and death; and between fellowship or EXTREMISM.

There, you have witnesses who paid dearly for what they believed in and what they stood for.  And the price was martyrdom! The witnesses stand tall and their blood albeit spilled continues to give inspiration and life to the people of the place. 

And as we reflect and discuss on interreligious dialogue and dialogue between and among peoples of living faiths and peoples of good will, we need to take a clear stance vis-a-vis EXTREMISM both violent and non violent, as well. Extremism in whatever form is a menace to humanity and the planet. Our stance on this issue shapes the relations and dialogue between and among religions and peoples of goodwill!

Jun Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya - Philippines
July 6, 2017
(A part of my presentation at Concilium 2017)

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