A Christian Renaissance?

POPE Francis was officially installed as supreme head of the Roman Catholic church last March 19, during the religion’s most solemn 40-day period called Lent. It climaxed with the observance of Holy Week a week hence, then capped in a glorious mystery-bursting twist with Easter Sunday.

There is, perhaps, more divine grace than mere coincidence in the convergence of the Vatican event and the holy season. The Pope has promptly urged a return by the 1.2-billion Catholics to the basic values and teachings of Jesus Christ as the way to renew and reinvigorate their battered Church. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus, Francis said. Those footsteps led through Calvary and Death, then to Resurrection and Life – a template of hope and love and salvific happiness.

The Pope adopted as his papal name that of St. Francis de Assisi, whose life and work closely followed Jesus’. The saint lived at the 14th century tail-end of the European Enlightenment, when the Old World emerged from centuries of intellectual, cultural and economic limbo. Many today perceive that the Catholic Church is fighting to free itself from an analogous limbo, partly an inter-generational and ideological resistance to Vatican II reforms. It will take a New World pope to pull the prestige trick – with domino effects from continent to continent, hopefully.

A massive missionary renewal of the Church down to the grassroot level will work wonders for Mindanao. It will turbo-charge existing inter-religious solidarity-building and help much to overcome the many structural dysfunctions in present society that cause great unpeace and misery in people.

To follow in the footsteps of Jesus does not mean retreating back to biblical or doctrinal fundamentalism. On the contrary: Jesus ate and mingled with prostitutes, thieves, pagans and Pharisees to convert them into his radical teachings. When Pope Francis lets the sunshine in on the musty corridors of Catholicism, he must let in all such pollutions that hover around, too. God’s grace will take care of the rest, to separate the chaff from the grain. It’s time for a New Renaissance: As the classic song says –

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation.

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2013 Here We Come

TO strengthen operational efficiency and effectiveness this 2013, the four NGO partners of Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc (ZABIDA) held an “Annual Operation Plan” conference last January 7-8 at its newly-built Peace and Development Resource Center in Suterville, Zamboanga City.

Office chiefs and program coordinators of Katilingban Para Sa Kalambuan, Inc., Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc., Reach Out to Others Foundation, Inc., and Peace Advocates Zamboanga, Inc., first held a general review of their past year’s accomplishments vis-a-vis approved plans. The review helped much to assess the strengths and weaknesses in terms of human and other resources, strategies and methods and to better understand external conditions and trends.

The analyses helped fine-tune earlier-designed plans and programs for implementation in 2013.

The consortium’s key thrusts will continue to be in livelihood micro-finance; sustainable agriculture cum environmental conservation; peace-building including culture of peace education, interfaith relations, good governance with a strong gender mobilization, and media advocacies; and community development through such interventions as water system, preventive health, paralegals, and sectoral organizing. For a civil society entity, planning is fairly well-detailed, to include number of target beneficiaries, barangays or schools, etc. Budgets also get a thorough tune-up.

External, special events like the coming May elections and peace process developments were anticipated and given interventional contingencies.

ZABIDA technical director Espie Hupida moderated the whole process, while chairman Fr. Angel Calvo and vice-chairperson Dr. Grace Rebollos led the evaluation and plans review.

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Fighting Poverty to Build Peace

Pope Benedict XVI has issued his message for the upcoming World Day of Peace celebration, which is observed annually every January 1. The title and theme of his message is “Fighting Poverty To Build Peace”. Poverty has been a perennial focus of past World Day of Peace messages of the Holy See in Rome. But in his present message, the Holy Father has drawn particular attention to the modern phenomenon of globalization as a major factor in the cause –as well as potential cure – for poverty.

“Effective means to redress the marginalization of the world’s poor through globalization will only be found if people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights,” the Pope says. He appeals for a “common code of ethics” amongst nations and for a system of “global solidarity.” At its root is recognition by all men and women that “we are called to form one family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – model their behaviour according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility.”

Pope Benedict discusses several areas of present-day poverty. They include “affective, moral and spiritual poverty”, which he pointed is to blame for rising campaigns around the world to control population growth utilizing anti-life methods. At the same time, he also notes that more than half of the world’s population living is poverty is comprised of children.

Another cause of poverty, he says, are pandemic diseases, which hinder or prevent people from devoting their energies towards poverty alleviation. Massive spending on military resources, he further notes, is another cause of the impoverishment of peoples, even in otherwise rich countries.

In the area of global finance and trade, the Pope said: “I should like to renew an appeal for all countries to be given equal opportunities of access to the world market, without exclusion or marginalization.” This way, he said, poorer countries will be able to earn more from their limited economic, which is mainly agricultural, resources.

He emphatically added that “globalization ‘is notably ambivalent’ and therefore needs to be managed with great prudence. This will include giving priority to the needs of the world’s poor, and overcoming the scandal of the imbalance between the problems of poverty and the measures which have been adopted in order to address them. The imbalance lies both in the cultural and political order and in the spiritual and moral order. In fact we often consider only the superficial and instrumental causes of poverty without attending to those harboured within the human heart, like greed and narrow vision. The problems of development, aid and international cooperation are sometimes addressed without any real attention to the human element, but as merely technical questions – limited, that is, to establishing structures, setting up trade agreements, and allocating funding impersonally. What the fight against poverty really needs are men and women who live in a profoundly fraternal way and are able to accompany individuals, families and communities on journeys of authentic human development.”

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A Joint Statement of the Convenors of the Bishops-Ulama Conference on the occasion of the celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace, November 27-December 3, 2008.

OUR sacred scriptures, the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an, reveal God’s/Allah’s eternal desire to unite His human creatures in whose image they were created. As divinely created beings, men and women mirror this godly image when there is harmony within and outside their very selves.

This harmony is what is meant by integrity of mind and heart. The Hebrew word shalom and the Arabic world salam, peace in English, encapsulize this authentic and lasting foundation of true peace that must reign within and among individuals, societies and nations.

Since time immemorial the individual human self has experienced division and fragmentation. This was, and is still being caused, by ungodly and selfish desires/actions thereby causing violence within the self and on fellow human beings. All these were, and still are, the real causes of conflicts and wars. Cessation of hostilities, eirene in Greek for peace, and written accord, pax in Latin for peace, were and are only steps to the divine gift of shalom and salam.

It is therefore imperative on the Abrahamic, Ebrahimic, and indigenous communities of Christians, Muslims and Lumads, led by their respective religious leaders, to bring about durable and lasting peace through the integrity of mind and heart, humbly expressed in the reconciling process of repentance and forgiveness. Only this process, bolstered by socio-economic and political projects, can heal the wide wounds of the spirit.

We urge all Mindanaoans, our fellow believers, to make this reconciliation process a top priority among our activities during the Mindanao Week of Peace 2008, which starts on November 27 until December 3 – and beyond.

May God/Allah/Magbabaya bless us all!

Archbishop of Davao

UCCP Bishop Emeritus

Ulama League of the Philippines

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