Photo by Ateneo de Davao University.

Peace has always been the call to action for every person in the world. It has been the end goal of every country—to build and achieve long lasting peace. In the Philippines, our journey towards achieving peace in the country has never been easy and it has taken us years and administrations after administrations to set forward actions that will address the issues of peace in the country particularly in Mindanao.

Last July 2018, Republic Act 11054 was ratified and signed into law by the President which established the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. It was a historic milestone for the country and for our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao. This was a historic yes to peace in Mindanao and the country especially between Muslims and Christians who had been at enmity with each other for centuries. Today, the Bangsamoro Organic Law serves as a new chapter into achieving long-lasting peace in the region. It also marks the need for everyone to work together in helping our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters to move forward in building and developing their region.

Development actors and civil society groups are in the forefront of continuing the efforts to sustain peace and solidarity in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro. Inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together which was a joined statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Ateneo de Davao University in partnership with the Bishops-Ulama Conference gathered together Christians and Muslims representatives from different organizations in the country and Mindanao to discuss and agree on actions towards healing and reconciliation particularly in the Bangsamoro Region.

Walking and Working together for Healing and Reconciliation, the conference was joined by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. They highlighted and emphasized the opening message of the Document on Human Fraternity that states, “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved.”

The journey to peace has been long and arduous, but despite that we believed that attaining peace is possible. With the establishment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the creation of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by the Pope and Grand Imam of two religions, we are asked to use this Document as an object and basis for reflection and research to help educate new generations to bring goodness and peace to others.

Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., President, of Ateneo de Davao University presented his insights on the key messages of the Document on Human Fraternity. He noted that the document emphasized the deeper appreciation on our shared fraternity especially that both religions believed in one God of Compassion, both are religions of peace and both respects human life as God’s creation. He shared that the document emerged out of prior dialogues. The foundation insight is expressed in the Introduction of the Document and it highlighted the importance of reciprocal understanding as the method and standard. He noted that there were 12 key messages expressed in the document as follows:

  1. Authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace, to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence. To re-establish wisdom, justice and love…
  2. Freedom is the right of every person
  3. Justice based on mercy is the path to follow
  4. Dialogue promotes a culture of tolerance, and reduces economic, social, political and environmental problems.
  5. Dialogue among believers means “coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and “transmitting the highest moral values that religions aim for”
  6. Places of worships are to be protected
  7. Terrorism is deplorable
  8. Citizenship is based on equality of rights and duties under which all enjoy justice
  9. Good relation between East and West: fundamental human rights
  10. The right of women to education and employment and to exercise their own political rights
  11. The right of children to grow up in a family environment, to receive nutrition, education and support
  12. The protection of the Elderly, weak, the disabled, the oppressed.

The document concludes a joint aspiration for both religions; an invitation to reconciliation and fraternity among all believers and non-believers among all people of goodwill; an appeal to every upright conscience that rejects deplorable violence and blind extremism, an appeal to those who cherish the values of tolerance and fraternity that are promoted and encouraged by religions. It calls for us to be witnesses to the greatness of faith in God, to be a witness to the closeness between East and West and between North and South.

To further our understanding of the document, Fr. Tabora suggested for the following to be done: (1) that the document on Human Fraternity must be read, comprehended, meditated and reflected on, and prayed over by all of us. (2) That we follow the examples set by the Bishops-Ulama Conference CEAP and the NABEI, CBCP and the various Muslims Associations of Ulamas and Ustadzes. (3) We urge the Bangsamoro Transmission Authority to adopt this document as a guide towards the successful implementation of the Organic Law for the BARMM region, (4) Conduct research that would promote a deepened understanding of this Document of Fraternity, (5) For us to promote face-to-face and life-to-life encounters between Christians, Muslims and Lumads.

Fr. Tabora calls on the civil society especially youth groups to take the lead, to face on the challenge of refreshed awareness of religion, ands to promote common good where all good are based. Moreover, we are left with the ultimate message of the document that we can adopt in our programs and as individuals where “the culture of dialogue is the path, mutual cooperation is the code of conduct; and that reciprocal understanding is the method and standard.”

To access the Document on Human Fraternity and World Peace, click on this link: