The last time we met was in Harmony Village few years ago and you reminded me that you are one of the Silsilah alumni. We are proud of this. You are now in one of the most difficult and challenging positions in the country. It is a position that can facilitate the peace process or continue the situation of violence and corruption in Mindanao. You can legitimately take pride in the notable achievements which are part of your “heritage” as a Muslim and a Mindanawon but this same heritage also has negative elements which includes violence that reached its highest level on the occasion of the Maguindanao Massacre.
Observing your first moves in your position as ARMM OIC I sense that you are doing your best. “Padayon!” (Move on!) This is the word of encouragement that you still remember for sure from the Silsilah experience.
Most of the time people believe that if we have more security structures and more money we can solve the problem of peace in Mindanao. This is only partially right. You know how much money has been given to ARMM over the years and how many thousands of soldiers have been assigned in Mindanao. But what have been the results? It is commonly believed that the National Government and the ARMM have to improve the “truth and sincerity” in their relations and make it the real foundation of peace and development.
We will support you in all the wise moves you will make to help the central government realize that only a real and genuine autonomy, or a similar form of governance, can be made as an example in Mindanao and hopefully applied in other regions as an appropriate form of “federalism” or similar system in the Philippines. You have the challenge to convince the people of ARMM to claim what is right, but with a realistic attitude that considers the real development of Mindanao , where the indigenous people and others who have reached Mindanao from other areas have rights too.
Dear Mujiv, you know better than I how complicated is the situation, but I know also that you have courage and determination. Use all your gifts and talents to become a model of a leader who is in the front line for the “common good” and not the “common corruption and violence “ that bring more poverty.
Remember the Silsilah commitment to promote the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace based on personal and social transformation. People around you have to learn how to be good Muslims or good Christians, living and promoting love and compassion. How many times we find hypocritical leaders who act as though they are good Muslims or good Christians, but their hearts are still full of hatred, violence and corruption. We need righteous people in society starting with the leaders. I hope and pray that you will be one model in Mindanao.
Dear Mujiv, I need not add more points in this open letter. You know what is best and I am sure you will continue to do the best.
Allow me to end this open letter with a suggestion. From 1977, the year I arrived in Mindanao, up to now I have seen the struggle of many good Muslims and Christians to overcome historical conflicts, new prejudices and forms of mistrust, among the two faith communities, including the lumads in Mindanao. But so far the results have been limited because many of them are part of the “silent majority” who are afraid to share their feelings on anomalies carried out by some leaders of sectors of society; illegal businesses; corruption, etc. Doing it in this way violence allows more violence and fear , which continue to perpetuate the “culture of silence and fear” . We have to overcome this critical situation in all possible ways.
One way to start can be to follow the encouragement coming from the United Nations to celebrate the first week of February every year as the “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. This move of the United Nations was inspired by the open letter of 138 Muslim scholars of the world to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christians leaders of the world to work together for peace, starting from the message of the love of God and the love of neighbor in Islam and Christianity as it is found in the teaching of the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an.
We in Zamboanga City and in the ZAMBASULTA sub-region are moving in this direction in partnership with the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines which is the lead group of this special Interfaith Harmony Week Celebration. I hope you will spread this celebration in the ARMM region as a good starting point to celebrate Harmony as the answer to the future peace of Mindanao.
Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME (Sgd.)