Forum Rabu CRCS&ICRS: Christian-Muslim Relations in the Philippines: Perspectives for Inter-religious Dialogue

Forum Rabu CRCS&ICRS yang akan datang akan membahas “Christian-Muslim Relations in the Philippines: Perspectives for Inter-religious Dialogue”. Diskusi akan dilaksanakan pada hari Rabu, 26 Maret 2008. Sebagai pembicara Jerson Benia Narciso. Jerson Benia Narciso adalah candidat doktor dalam bidang studi agama di Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS). Beliau memperoleh gelar master of Divinity pada tahun 1995 dari Central Philippine University, Jaro, Iloilo Citi, Philippines, serta master dalam bidang teology dari the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology. Beliau telah terlibat dalam sejumlah tugas advokasi untuk perdamaian dan hak asasi manusia serta isu-isu politik dan etnik yang terjadi dalam kehidupan masyrakat Philipina. Beliau juga merupakan seorang pastor selama kurang lebih 11 tahun.

Diskusi akan dilaksanakan di Gedung Sekolah Pascasarjana UGM, Lantai 3, Ruang 306, jam 13:00 sampai 15:00. Diskusi ini gratis, silahkan mengundang teman-teman anda untuk bergabung dalam diskusi ini.

Dibawah ini adalah abstrak yang akan dipresentasikan dalam diskusi.

Abstract:

Christian-Muslim Relations in the Philippines: Perspectives for Inter-religious Dialogue
By; Jerson Benia Narciso

My interest on Christian-Muslim relations had begun in 1986 when as a seminary student I was invited by the Peace Commission of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) to participate in a two-month Christian-Muslim dialogue program in Mindanao. This program had given me the opportunity not only to engage with some Muslim intellectuals in academic discussions and dialogue, but more importantly, to learn how to live and get along with people within another faith tradition. In 1992 to 1998, I was appointed to serve as member of the Peace Commission of NCCP where I became more actively involved in several peace initiatives and Christian-Muslim dialogue programs especially in Southern Philippines. The NCCP peace program was anchored on the conviction that the conflict in Mindanao could not be resolved by force or violent means. Against the Governments All Out War policy and militaristic approach the NCCP encouraged peaceful means to resolving Christian-Muslim conflicts in Mindanao through friendly and peaceful dialogues. The following are some of the significant observations and insights that I have gained during the 6 year period that I have served as a member of the Peace Commission:

1. In spite of the numerous dialogues that had been initiated through the efforts of the NCCP, both in local and national level it was disheartening to see that bloody confrontations between Christians and Muslims continued to escalate. Many Christians were disappointed at the seemingly fruitless efforts for Inter-religious dialogue. Consequently, the program got very little support from among Christian churches. Most people thought that inter-religious dialogue was nothing but cheap and easy slogan. It was like a lame duck facility that accomplished nothing. In short, its useless!

2. Worst is that, while dialogues were being conducted the government continued its military offensives against Muslim rebels and terrorists. The Christian vigilante groups did the same as well to eliminate the so called evil Muslim elements. They believed that the only way we can resolve the conflict in Mindanao is to eliminate all bad Muslim elements (if not all Muslims). This violent action by the government and Christian vigilantes had jeopardized inter-religious dialogue. Since, Christians are identified with the government it was somewhat logical for Muslims to suspect the legitimacy and sincerity of the dialogue.

3. More often clashes between Christians and Muslims were intensified by inflammatory rhetoric of leaders from both sides. Sometimes the media would also fan the hysteria and muddle the issue by issuing propaganda that put Muslims in bad light portraying them as war freaks and dangerous fanatics. Some scrupulous politicians and individuals were also taking advantage of the situation for selfish ends.

4. Much of the previous dialogues were more on the cultural and theological issues and not much has been done in addressing pressing issues such as, socio-economic, and political injustice. As it appears, the main root of the conflict is not religious but rather, socio-economic and political conflict caused by the increasing marginalization of Muslims by the government.

5. Inter-religious dialogue initiatives were coming from the churches while Muslims were only recipients or passive partners in the dialogue. Still, there is a strong feeling of mistrust among Muslims who identify Christians with the Government and the West. In this case inter-religious dialogue is seen as a ploy by the Government to pacify and subdue Muslims in Mindanao. Some Muslims feel that Inter-religious dialogue is used as a subtle tool for mission and an attempt to promote Christianity to the detriment of Islam.

6. Most of the Inter-religious dialogues initiated in the past were top level types of dialogue and not much has been done on the grass root level. I think dialogue should not be limited to academic discussions of conceptual ideas. The ongoing dialogue in day-to-day life should not be ignored. I feel dialogue should not only be among chosen representatives but should spread into wider circles involving larger number of people and communities. I also feel that Christian leaders and clergies in the Philippines should devote more time to educate their laity about inter-faith living and correct the lingering stereotypical misconception of Muslims as traitors, barbaric and evil terrorists.

7. The sincerity of the Philippine Government in addressing the economic and political demands of the marginalized Muslims in Mindanao has remained uncertain. Militaristic way is still conceived as the best way to resolve the conflict. For example, instead of sending medical doctors and social workers to help build Muslim communities the government kept on sending battle clad Marines to destroy them. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is still the order of the day. Violence begets violence.

Against this background, I see the need to develop a dialogical process and approach that is based on a broader and a much deeper understanding of the roots and causes of Christian-Muslim conflict in the Philippines. To understand the roots and the nature of this conflict would require a critical analysis of the dynamics of Christian-Muslim relations in the Philippines from a historical, socio-economic, political and theological perspective. In line with this, I also see the need to develop a new paradigm of Inter-religious dialogue which takes into account the prevailing socio-economic and political injustice that affect Christian-Muslim relations in the Philippines. Inter-religious dialogue in this sense may take a different form and direction.

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