Strengthening Interfaith Dialogues and Understanding in the Philippines

In News by Staff

MANILA —

In an Inquirer news article dated February 4, 2013, reporter Zoe Rodriguez stated that a bill recently passed in the Senate is seeking to foster “genuine understanding amongst people of different faiths and belief systems” by urging government agencies to hold interfaith activities during the first week of February every year.

Rodriguez went on to quote Senator Loren Legarda, author of the World Interfaith Harmony Week Bill that “this measure will greatly contribute to easing any conflict or tension caused by differing religious beliefs in the country. Gatherings and activities for World Interfaith Harmony Week have been held in various countries across the world with diverse backgrounds, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Italy, and Jordan.” More than 40 countries in the world are already celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week following a resolution by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that was later adopted unanimously as a UN Observance Event.

Legarda noted that “even in our country, the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP) staged a gathering in Zamboanga City in honor of inter-religious cooperation.” The bill also advocates dialogues among leaders of religious institutions. “The harmony we are pushing for is democratic, and built on effective communication and mutual respect,” Legarda concluded.

Following the UN Observance Event, several Interfaith Dialogues were held this week in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated. A forum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, “A Common Word Towards a Common Peace” under the leadership of Former Senator Santanina T. Rasul, involved presenters representing the Catholics, Sulong CARHRIHL, Muslims, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Buddhists, the Noorus Salam, and Iglesia Ni Cristo.

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1of2 Presenters at the Interfaith Dialogue in Quezon City (Mr. Douglas McAllister top row far left)© 2013 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mr. Douglas E. McAllister, Area Legal Counsel for the Church in the Philippines, gave the following summary of his remarks: There were three parts to what I said after thanking the forum hosts for inviting us: (1) I gave a brief overview of the Church, explaining the significance of the Church’s name and its nickname (the central focus of the Church is on Christ, but also I explained the concepts of  ‘saints of the latter days’ and ‘Mormons’);

(2) I then presented an overview of our beliefs about religious liberty and interfaith dialogue and our beliefs in the two great commandments of loving God with all our souls and loving our neighbors as ourselves (referencing the verses in both Matthew and Mark);

(3) I retold my personal journey of how I came to attend this forum, which started with my first meeting Santanina Rasul and her daughter, Amina, at the 2010 Brigham Young University International Law and Religion Symposium.  Subsequently, I have built a friendship with them that has resulted in the Church participation in three Interfaith Dialogues (one in Zamboanga and two in Manila) and the placement of a Columbia University Law School legal intern at the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Lyndon Plothow, who did legal research helping to promote basic rights for Muslim women (the right to vote and the right to own property).

These Interfaith Dialogues will continue to be held with the hope of bringing interfaith harmony and peace as well as religious tolerance in the Philippines.

A respect for the diverse beliefs and unique contributions of all the world’s faiths is one of the hallmarks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the earliest days of the Church, the principle of religious liberty and tolerance has always been upheld: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (Articles of Faith 1:11).

In that same spirit, Church President Thomas S. Monson made a plea during general conference, a semiannual worldwide meeting, for more religious understanding: “I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours” (April 2008 General Conference address). Latter-day Saints accept all sincere believers as equals in the pursuit of faith and in the great work of serving humanity.

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