Cagayan de Oro Celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week 2017

Members of the Interfaith Forum for Peace, Harmony and Solidarity enjoined the ecumenical Prayer Service hosted by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week

The World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) was celebrated in Cagayan de Oro last 1st week of February of this year with the theme, “Celebrating Harmony in the Spirit of Mercy and Compassion.” This week-long celebration is a Resolution 65/5 proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on October 20, 2010 that every first week of February is the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs. Hence, we are all encouraged to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief. Thus, there is a need to re-affirms that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace.

To promote harmonious relationship and better understanding between and among people of the different living faiths, the Interfaith Forum for Peace Harmony and Solidarity whose members are UCCP Pastors, AFP Chaplain(Methodist), IFI priests, Roman Catholic Priests-Nuns & Lays, Imams and Ustadj of the Muslim community, IP-Higaunon of Dansolihon, Campus Ministries and Peace Projects of Xavier University, Students of XU Sira’j Muslim Religious Organizations and Muslim Youth Council conducted series of activities in Cagayan de Oro City.  The first day of the week-long celebration was graced by an ecumenical prayer service hosted by Senior Minister Reverend Ricardo Yañez Jr of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines – Cagayan de Oro. Each Church representative was assigned to specific intentions to pray for. But prior to the prayer, Archbishop Antonio J Ledesma, SJ DD of the Roman Catholic Church gave the introduction and the rationale of the said celebration. After which, Fr. Vic Arellano of Igelsia Filipina Independiente expressed his prayer intention for solidarity and unity in the midst of divisions, confusions and conflicts not only in Mindanao but to the entire inhabitants of the world. Thus it is imperative that one has to be concern with the other notwithstanding each other differences. In the same manner, AFP Chaplain of the Methodist Pastor Eduardo Copliting expressed also his prayer intention for the peace processes in Mindanao to push through in spite and despite of the very challenging situations right now between the GRP-NDF and the Bangsamoro people. Ustadj Edris Salic of the Muslim community here in Cagayan de Oro conveyed his prayer intention for world peace especially of the many innocent lives that died in the name of war and armed conflicts in the Middle Eastern part of the world. Nevertheless, Gail dela Rita of Xavier University and Pastor Goel Bagundol of UCCP conveyed their intercessory prayer for the care of the environment and to engage in all forms in the disaster risks reduction management especially that Cagayan de Oro had experienced an unexpected flooding two months ago.

Last February 3, our Muslim brothers and sisters of the Oro Jamaah Mosque in Cogon open its doors in welcoming the religious sisters and catechists of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro headed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and some UCCP Pastors headed by Pastor Ricardo Yañez for the Muslim Friday Dohor or noon prayer observance. After the prayer, Ustadj Anas shared something on the beauty and richness of Islam as well as its commonality with the Christian faith.  He said that there are only substantial commonalities than differences. Hence, religious tolerance, mutual acceptance, appreciation, respect must prevail since we only have one God though called in different names.

On the other hand, the Sira’j Muslim Religious Organization of Xavier University spearheaded a symposium dubbed as Ummah 2.0 bearing the theme: ‘Enlightening the Youth and Reviving the Imaan (aka Faith). The said symposium was attended by  some Muslim students form other schools and university in Cagayan de Oro City. One of the remarkable topics that were discussed was the true essence of Jihad that a Muslim and Non-Muslim should know particularly the great Jihad by Atty. Hamid Barra, former co-convenor of the Bishops-Ulama Conference. Some emerging and prevalent issues were also tackled by the distinguished speakers. Moreover, challenge the Muslim youth in Cagayan de Oro to get involve in promoting a culture of peace and dialogue with their fellow youth so as to create more spaces for mutual understanding and respect with one another and the “otherness” of the others.

Lastly, the WIHW concluded its activity in the Pamumulakaw-Panulak ta Wahig last March 4, 2017. This is an annual ritual of the Higaunon Tribal communities in Dansolihon, Cagayan de Oro City in order to give thanks, to say sorry and protection from the dwellers (guardians) of the Cagayan de Oro river to never again experience the 6-years ago tragedy (Sendong) that Kagay-anons could not forget. In this gathering were the people in Brgy Nangka, Libona Bukidnon, the members of the Interfaith Forum, XU Year of Service Volunteers, XU Socio-Anthro Dept., members from SACDO, Parishioners of Barra, Opol, Columban priests, seminarians and lay missionaries from Tonga, Fiji and Peru witnessed and participated during the celebration. The ritual was also graced by the simultaneous prayers of the Baylan (Datu), Priest and Pastor during the pamatbat (incantation). This IP ritual reminded us of our responsibility to be a true steward of God, Bathala or Allah’s creation.