MANILA — An Italian priest in Mindanao has apologized on behalf of the people, mostly Christians who are pushing for a “total war” in the region, in the light of the recent clash between government forces and Muslim armed men in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, Pontifical Institute For Foreign Mission, reminded the people of the Gospel’s central message of love, since there were different reactions against Muslim after the death of 44 Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) personnel last Jan. 25.
“As a Christian priest, I want to ask forgiveness for the voices calling for total war in Mindanao, coming often from Christian sectors and politicians,” he said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news website.
He added, “What will happen if there will be war in Mindanao again? What will happen if this war will give more space to international terrorists who justify their violence through ideologies that already are circulating in our midst?”
With this, the founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement urged both Christians and Muslim to be together for peace to reign in the Southern part of the country.
“I appeal especially to religious leaders, both Muslims and Christians. We have a big responsibility. I advice the Muslim leaders to be more active in promoting the concept of mercy and compassion, the central message of Islam, and to the Christians to recall the central message that is love,” D’Ambra said.
He also reminded the people to unite against ideologies of violence and war, noting that the World Interfaith Harmony Week was celebrated last Feb. 1 to 7.
“Wrong ideologies are the major reasons why terrorism in an atmosphere of secularism is creating so much terror and violence. A violence justified by religious ideologies also happened in the past to Christianity and now is more visible in Islam,” he said.
The tension in Mindanao, D’Ambra said, has created fear among Christians and Muslims alike. While Christians are leaving places more populated by the Muslims in Mindanao, Muslims also feel suspicious being in cities populated mostly by Christians.
“In this alarming situation that is reflected in Mindanao, we are invited to put away all the bad feelings and emotions in this delicate time of the history of Mindanao and of the world and make an examination of conscience,” the priest said.
Aside from the Mamasapano clash, which claimed lives of both Muslims and Christians, military and civilians alike, Mindanao also witnessed an armed uprising in Zamboanga in September 2013.