OPAPP pushes interfaith as Obama
creates stronger faith-based office
Time: PGMA also at prayer breakfast
By MITCH R. CONFESOR
MANILA – The Philippine government has renewed its continuing commitment and advocacy for strengthened interfaith initiatives worldwide, as United States President Barack Obama called on world leaders to promote interreligious dialogues and also announced that he was signing an Executive Order creating a stronger and more pervasive faith-based office in the White House.
A pool report by TIME magazine webpage revealed that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also attended the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning (Washington D.C. time) at the Hilton Washington, where Obama spoke to a packed ballroom at the National Prayer Breakfast, continuing a tradition which the late former U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower began in 1953.
With this, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under the Arroyo administration is echoing worldwide calls for the strengthening of more global initiatives on interfaith harmony, particularly among Christians and Muslims, as well as the promotion of Muslim women’s rights.
“The presidents of Haiti and the Philippines were here, as were the prime ministers of Albania, Macedonia, and Mauritius,” the TIME pool report wrote on the prayer breakfast promoting interfaith harmony and understanding.
During the prayer breakfast, Obama announced the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a White House office of faith-based initiatives that will reportedly show no favoritism to any religious group and adhere to the strict separation of church and state in America.
Based on text of his prepared speech sent to media, Obama revealed: “The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another – or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state.”
Obama added: “We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.”
Promoting global interfaith, Obama stressed: “We will also reach out to leaders and scholars around the world to foster a more productive and peaceful dialogue on faith. I don’t expect divisions to disappear overnight, nor do I believe that long-held views and conflicts will suddenly vanish. But I do believe that if we can talk to one another openly and honestly, then perhaps old rifts will start to mend and new partnerships will begin to emerge. In a world that grows smaller by the day, perhaps we can begin to crowd out the destructive forces of zealotry and make room for the healing power of understanding.”
He further said: “This is my hope. This is my prayer. I believe this good is possible because my faith teaches me that all is possible, but I also believe because of what I have seen and what I have lived. I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.”
Also, he said: “The particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted, to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken, to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.”
OPAPP Usec calls for more global
interfaith harmony, women’s rights
MANILA – Undersecretary Nabil Tan, the Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser, has urged world leaders to promote international peace efforts on interreligious dialogues and other faith-based initiatives.
“All of us shall always strive to find these common threads into which our differences may be bridged, and share our values through love for peace, justice and human rights, and respect for human dignity,” Usec. Tan said.
As one of the top members of the government panel that negotiated with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the Southern Philippines a decade ago, Usec. Tan said Muslims of the world including himself have always advocated for the universality of Islam as a religion of peace.
“People of the Islamic faith all over the globe have long affirmed their commitment to the principle of the Islamic faith as a peaceful religion,” Tan said. “This is anchored on interpersonal openness and human intercommunication with the various spectrum of the world community.”
Late last year, Usec. Tan was one of the top Philippine delegates to the 8th General Conference of Islamic Call held at the Dhat el-Ahmad Complex in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Usec. Tan said the conference organized by the World Islamic Call Society (WICS) in October was participated in by 460 multinational Islamic organizations and even some members of Christian associations.
Among the most prominent participants were Algerian revolutionary hero Ahmad ben Bella, chair of the International People’s Committee for the Ghadhafi Prize for Human Rights, as well as former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, WICS secretary general.
According to Usec. Tan, WICS has been bridging the gaps among religions and bringing them closer by promoting interfaith dialogues.
“One of the Society’s main focuses is to promote a moderate view of Islam that is inclusive rather than exclusive,” Usec. Tan said. “The WICS has always hoped to become a beacon of religious tolerance, understanding, spirituality, and enlightenment in the world.”
Moreover, he said WICS has been a major advocate of gender equality and empowerment, particularly on Muslim women’s rights. He said Muslim women’s issues have represented an essential aspect of the Society’s programs.
“The Society’s objectives comply with the distinguished position that Islam has benefitted women in general,” Tan said, adding that the WICS programs addressing women’s interests have comprised such fields as education, training, and medical care.
Further, he echoed the earlier call of President Gloria Arroyo during the 2006 WICS conference, wherein she said interfaith initiatives have been very vital to the entire Philippines.
“Like many members of the OIC, the Philippines is a pluralistic nation with various religious and cultural communities, the biggest of which are the Roman Catholics and the Muslims,” the President had said during the conference also held in Libya.
President Arroyo added: “Interfaith dialogue is an integral part of our six-year medium-term Philippine development plan as an official framework for the conduct of healing and reconciliation programs.”
Citing the role of interfaith dialogue in restoring peace in the Southern Philippines, she said the country has a network of non-government organizations striving for interfaith understanding.
The President said this interfaith initiative had been pioneered by the Mindanao-based Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), composed of Christian Protestant and Roman Catholic bishops, Muslim religious leaders, and indigenous tribal leaders promoting mutual understanding and reconciliation among Christians, Muslims, and indigenous peoples.
Interfaith dialogue in the United Nations earlier stemmed from a Philippine initiative, a resolution on interfaith dialogue that the UN General Assembly unanimously approved in November 2004.
The interreligious initiative later continued with the holding in June 2005 of the Tripartite Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, chaired by the Philippines under Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, at the UN headquarters in New York.