One in the celebration of global unity for building a peaceful and sustainable world, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined the Uniharmony Partners Manila (UPM) in the observance of the International Day of Peace on 21 September 2020.
The Church, together with UPM, organized an online conference with the theme “Interreligious Dialogue and Peacemaking During the Time of Pandemic.” The messages shared by partners and distinguished speakers focused on the key roles and responsibilities of the interreligious community in the promotion of peace through dialogue of common action during the time of the pandemic.
Hon. Morteza Sabouri, Cultural Counselor of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Manila, welcomed participants to the online conference. In his message, he said, “We believe that religion and the mercy of God have the ability and responsibility to preserve peace. They make people avoid going to war as solutions to their problems. At the same time, religions also confirm the right of defending and respecting the values of the human being.”
Hon. Sabouri further added, “I think that the interreligious dialogue diplomacy will help us to cooperate with each other for helping this world [become] more peaceful. And religion can be a chance to prevent humans from resorting to force and violence. Religious values and teachings can help people strengthen values and spirituality.”
His Excellency Most Reverend Broderic Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, addressed the participants as the keynote speaker. His message focused on the importance of religious communities coming together as one in the promotion of peace, particularly as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 crises.
“Peacemaking and dialogue are a great challenge during this time of pandemic, but they must continue,” he shared during his opening speech. “In fact, working for peace through dialogue is even more needed during this time. Our experience of the virus is that it is all encompassing. The Virus does not discriminate. It affects all.”
The Apostolic Administrator then pointed out that people should not discriminate because “a worldwide problem can only be solved by worldwide cooperation.”
Most Reverend Pabillo then emphasized the need for dialogue and shared three requirements for a successful dialogue. He shared that openness, trust and sharing are essential attributes that can bridge the gap among nations and social classes.
Furthermore, the Apostolic Administrator shared that one big challenge people must overcome in the face of a crisis is to overcome self-centeredness and respond to the call of generosity.
“All our religions, by their traditions and by their sacred writings, have something to offer to unite people in times of crises. Let us stress more our common humanity that we share to promote fraternity and harmony during this time,” Most Reverend Pabillo said.
Following Most Reverend’s keynote remarks, His Excellency Alireza Tootoonchian, Ambassador-Designate of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Philippines, shared a brief message that echoed the same sentiment that the Apostolic Administrator shared about the need for religious dialogue.
“Every religion upholds the inherent dignity and value of every person,” the Iranian Ambassador shared. “In a time dominated by confusion and fear, they can call all people to care deeply of each other by promoting peace, hope, and solidarity within and beyond their communities… Religion can often be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation. When organized creatively, interreligious dialogue can nurture deep engagement at all levels of hierarchy, including the community level of which the Philippines is a very good example.”
Following the messages shared by distinguished guests, Professor Pablito Baybado, Jr., UPM Coordinator, opened the conference for discussions about challenges and opportunities for multi-religious cooperation during the pandemic.
Representatives from the different partner organizations of UPM shared their thoughts and insights. Many of them also re-echoed what Most Reverend Pabillo spoke about, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the interreligious community as well as being able to reach out to those in need despite the limitations that the pandemic has caused. Some have also shared about their organization’s participation in the COVID-19 Relief Efforts.
To conclude the webinar, Dr. Lilian Sison, Secretary General of Religions for Peace Philippines, synthesized the messages shared. She began by enumerating the effects that current pandemic has caused, which included job loss, mental, increased cases of domestic violence, social inequality, poverty and many others.
She further talked about environment disruptions, particularly the wildlife habitat, as one of the causes of disease spread such as the COVID-19 virus.
At the conclusion of her synthesis, Dr. Sison, reiterated what the previous distinguished guests have shared. When religious communities look at their commonalities, interreligious dialogue can flourish. They can work together for the common good, especially in addressing the issues the world is facing due to the pandemic.
As part of the observance of International Peace Day, UPM identified challenges and opportunities to promote peace and social harmony. During the online conference, UPM highlighted its recent project done for the communities in Marawi.
On 18 September 2020, Uniharmony Partners Manila and Cebu turned over 550 relief packs, which consisted of five kilos of rice, Halal-certified vegetable cooking oil, soy sauce and canned tuna, to Philippine Navy to ensure the safe shipment and delivery to Marawi City via Iligan City.
Through the help of its partner, Lite Ferries, the Philippine Navy were able to handover the goods to the UPM’s contact organization in Marawi City the following day.
On 20 and 21 September 2020, the 550 relief food packs were distributed to residents in community shelters in Mipaga and Rorogagus, Marawi City, as well as those residing in Barangay Guimba. Recipients included pedicab drivers, lactating mothers, solo parents, farmers and senior citizens.
In addition to the relief operations, UPM, in cooperation with the Church Communication Department Philippines Area of The Church of Jesus Christ, produced a video a short video that highlighted several faith leaders supplicating for the residents of Marawi who are still in living temporary shelters three years after the siege.
In his short supplication, Elder Aretemio C. Maligon, Area Seventy, prayed, “We ask thee to bless and inspire our government that they may be able to find ways on how to help and alleviate the conditions of our Muslim brothers who are affected by the Marawi conflict. We also ask thee to bless the lives of our Muslim brothers [and sisters] that they’ll be strengthened. That they’ll find joy and peace in spite of the difficulties that they are facing right now.”
Established in 1981 by the unanimous United Nations resolution A/RES/53/243 B, the International Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace. Each year, the Church joins Uniharmony Partners Manila in its observance.
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