July 27, 2011
Sometime in July 1998, I met two people from an international peacebuilding organization who came to Manila for a visit. As I listened to their experiences in the field, I was struck not only by what I heard but by what I saw. One of them was wearing a white t-shirt and on it was printed the image of the globe surrounded by the symbols of the different religions of the world. The image struck me so much it made me reflect on the significance of my own Catholic Christian faith in the midst of the many different faiths in the world. And I could not help but wonder what it meant to be truly Christian in a world where religion has, throughout human history, been a source of conflict rather than a resource for peace.
The words of Bishop William Swing (then Episcopal Bishop of California) resonated with me. He said: Religion has not only a calling but a clear moral responsibility to act for peace in these trying times.”
The vision of the United Religions Initiative (URI) appealed to me, and I was inspired by this global community of faiths to reach out and help bring people of different religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions together to a common ground—a safe space—where they could meet and dialogue with one another in the spirit of mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.
In 2000, my interfaith friends and I established The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation in Metro Manila and we engaged in projects and activities that promoted various ways of dialogue among peoples of diverse cultures and beliefs in our parts of the country. In 2003, we began to reach out to grassroots communities in Metro Manila where Muslims and Christians lived together as neighbors, albeit with much pain and difficulty.
Today, our peace and relationship-building work has deepened and expanded to also include training Muslim, Christian and indigenous leaders from the conflict-affected communities in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.
Essential to our training programs are INTRA-faith modules designed to prepare Muslims and Christians separately for Muslim-Christian Dialogue and relationship-building, and modules on engaging the moral imagination in finding creative and transformative ways of addressing conflict. This was inspired in us by Dr. John Paul Lederach, foremost lecturer and trainer on Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, under whom I have had the privilege to train during my active involvement in the global URI peacebuilding efforts.
I continue to look forward to being able to make a difference in this field of endeavor, and to growing with you in this journey along the path of peace!