RP shares experiences on interfaith initiatives as a committed member of int’l community — DFA

March 15, 2010 11:37 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, March 15 — Faith in international dialogues as peace trailblazers has taken the Philippines — at least in this decade — to New York, then to Havana in Cuba, on to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, and back to Manila this week, with Filipino leaders and diplomats employing “soft power in efforts to achieve its national objectives” of peace and unity.

Beginning Tuesday, the first-ever Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting (SNAMMM) on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development will transpire in the Philippines.

More than 120 delegations representing member-States and organizations as well as observer-States and organizations of the 118-strong Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), guests and civil society groups have begun descending upon Manila for the three-day meeting, the biggest gathering here of high-level government representatives from developing nations.

“Manila will have its rightful place in history as the birthplace of a new and broad-based area of international cooperation, for which we and our children and their children will be proud of,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo said at a press conference today.

It all began in 2004 with the unprecedented resolution, “Promotion of Inter-religious Dialogue for Peace,” which the Philippines presented to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) described that resolution as “the first-ever that recognized the potential benefits in engaging the religious sector in the attainment of the world’s secular concerns relating to peace.”

In September 2005, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo followed up on the gains of the resolution and convened the Informal Summit of World Leaders on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation in New York. With her as chair, the conference adopted a declaration that created a Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace, which now meets annually.

The Philippines chairs a tripartite forum at the U.N. of governments, U.N. system and civil society which it launched in 2006. It has now expanded to 54 governments, 15 U.N. agencies and 110 religious non-governmental organizations.

In the Philippines’ fifth appearance as a member-State of the NAM at the 14th Summit in Havana in 2006, President Arroyo broached the idea of Manila hosting a high-level meeting on interfaith initiatives.

Because the Philippines has a credible record and experience in the field, the idea took on positively that when she manifested last year at the 15th NAM Summit in Egypt that the Philippines was ready to host what would later be SNAMMM, it was endorsed and incorporated in that Summit’s Declaration.

So the Philippines has come full circle, from the decades when the phrase “interfaith dialogue” used to be the broader “culture of peace” or “meeting of civilizations, " and from the time since the 1960s when ecumenism was the key to better understanding between the country’s Christian and Muslims to the now-institutionalized Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC ).

BUC is now the leading civil society on interfaith communication, helping much in peace talks between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao, and even in providing avenues for the release of such kidnapped clerics as Irish priest Michael Sinnot.

”This wealth of experience in the field of interfaith dialogue and cooperation for peace and development has inspired the Philippines to contribute its share to the international community’s continuing search for effective, lasting and effective ways of promoting peace and development, in light of our interdependent and globalized world,” according to Romulo.

Reiterated SNAMMM spokesperson Claro Cristobal: “The Philippines is a very responsible member of the international community as it also has something to share with that community. We are coming from a full appreciation of that responsibility…so we share our experience, making contributions whenever, wherever we can.”

In fact, the Manila Declaration at the end of SNAMMM “will become a seminal product” that could be the basis of further endeavors on interfaith, Cristobal said, emphasizing the trail-blazing role that the Philippines has embarked on.

Aside from the Manila Declaration, the other Outcome Document is a “Program of Action on Active Promotion of Dialogue, in Particular, Interfaith Dialogue, to Strengthen a Culture of Peace and Development.”

The Philippine President will deliver the keynote address at the formal opening on March 17, where she is expected to summarize the Government’s inroads into the peace process both locally and internationally — possibly mentioning Mindanao and the assistance of the world community for its development.

UNGA President, Dr. Abdussalam Treki, Libya’s former foreign minister, and Egypt’s Minister of Awqaf (Endowments), Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, are scheduled to give statements at the formal opening, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will appear in a video message.

The Secretary-General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Dr. William Vendley, will also give a statement.

Before all the statements, Dr. Mahmoud will turn over his post as SNAMMM chair to Dr. Alberto Romulo. (PNA Feature) V3/scs/GJB

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