Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

UPF-Philippines Sponsors Interreligious Clergy Association

Tagum, Philippines - The Universal Peace Federation of the Philippines organized an interreligious conference in strife-torn Mindanao, the southernmost grouping of islands in the Philippines. The second largest island of the Philippines is found in this archipelago; it is about the size of Greece.

The focus of the recently concluded seminar, held January 10-14, was on building bridges of understanding between three groups of people: Christians, Muslim, and the Lumad (indigenous peoples).

The economic cost of the decades-long conflict runs into the billions of US dollars. In terms of loss human of life it is well over 100,000 people. Millions have been displaced.

However, UPF’s approach is novel. Instead of letting religious differences go unaddressed or divide people, this NGO founded by Rev. Moon of Korea sees religiosity as a unifying aspect.

“Just the fact that we are religious people, seeking to live our lives in accordance with our understanding of God’s will is a strong point of convergence,” said Bishop Elias Soria, Vice-President of UPF-Philippines.

This has been UPF’s strategy in the Middle East too, where UPF seeks to build understanding and harmony among people of the Abrahamic faiths.

Normally the fundamental causes of the conflict in Mindanao have been identified as disputes over ancestral lands (called ancestral domain) vs. the democracy of numbers and its accompanying economic prosperity. Mindanao is rich in agriculture and ocean resources.

Notwithstanding these disputed issues, UPF sees an emotional element that is driving these divisions: i.e., resentment, hatred, jealousy, etc. And without addressing these sensitive subjects, lasting peace is only a dream. It is the role of religion to reign in and tackle these highly charged emotions.

Therefore, UPF sees it as essential to find common ground among the all faiths. Obviously, not an easy task—but vitally necessary nevertheless.

UPF educators at the “Partners for Peace” program dealt with one of the most contentious and divisive issues head on: Jesus. The audience comprised 220 religious leaders: 90 percent Christian, 7 percent Islamic, and 3 percent indigenous people.

To the delight of the Muslims and the amazement of the Christian, the Holy Qur'an was used to teach about Jesus’ life, upbringing and mission.

For example, the Qur'an teaches that

  • Mother Mary and her offspring, Jesus, were protected from Satan. (3:36)
  • Mother Mary was “chosen” and “purified” (3:42-47). Her position was “above the women of all nations...." Jesus is the Word from Allah and God “decreed a Plan” for Jesus’ birth.
  • The conception of Jesus was a “gift” from God (19:19). Depending on the translation used, Jesus is described as: “a holy son” (Yusuf Ali), “a faultless son” (Pickthal), and “a pure boy” (Shakir).
  • Mary was told her child was a “glad tidings” from God and his name would be “Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary.” (3:45)

Finally, the Qur'an compares Jesus to Adam: “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: 'Be.' And he was” (3:59). This is similar to the Bible referring to Jesus as the “last Adam” in I Corinthians 15:22 & 45.

A Muslim leader said this was the first conference he attended where Christians, Muslims, and indigenous people were invited to use their religious heritage as the cornerstones for building peace in Mindanao.

One member of the Citizens Crime Watch Task Force noted that, “this seminar really touched our hearts… especially the injunction to ‘Love your enemy.’”

At the conclusion, Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Chair of UFP-Asia, launched the Asian Clergy Leadership Conference. He explained that membership does not require one to change their faith-heritage. But it does require a change of heart, attitude, and priorities based on personal responsibility embedded in universal ethical and moral values outlined during the seminar.

The conference declaration signed by conference participants read, in part, “Led by the Holy Spirit and maintaining their own faith traditions, we are united to advance the work of God in our own lives, in our family, our societies, nations, and the world. We pray and work for peace.”

The conference promotes strengthening marriage and family, dialogue and understanding, interfaith fellowship and prayer, restoring the community, and renewing the nation and world.

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