CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 November 2017

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Yet another call of War never again!

MANILA (SE): Once more we have a war and once more we hear the cry of War, never again! this time from the bishops of The Philippines as they reflect on the siege in Marawi at their plenary gathering at the Pius XII Centre in Manila from July to 8 to 10.
 
This time their cry is, “War in Marawi, never again!” but as they go on to call for a return to normalcy, many people in the beleaguered island of Mindanao wonder whether war and violence that has been their way for decades has become the normal of the day.
 
The bishops also question the value of martial law, let alone its extension which the president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been pondering out loud, and a statement signed on July 10 by the outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of The Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, says they doubt that peace can come from the rule of the iron rod.
 
Speaking at the end of their summer plenary meeting, the bishops reject the talk of a religious war, stating emphatically that the siege of the majority Muslim city of Marawi in not part of a religious war.
 
“We have heard and read truly stunning stories of how Muslims have protected and helped Christians to escape from almost certain death. Even now Christians are assisting thousands of Muslims who have fled from Marawi for safety. These are indisputable signs that there is no religious war,” the bishops stress.
 
They then point out that they are joining the Islamic religious scholars of Mindanao in condemning the violent extremism of the Maute group conducting the siege in which over 500 people have died to date, saying that they have contradicted all tenets on Islam in taking hostages, as well as maiming and killing the innocent.
 
The bishops then call on the people to discard their belief in violence as a solution to the problems that beset them and join them in wishing well to their neighbours of different faiths, learning to understand and appreciate them, rather than condemning and attacking them.
 
In calling for an end to the abuse of religion, they say, “Let parents, schools, Churches and mosques ensure that none may be lured by the recruitment efforts of terrorists. Let us teach the young and the old that our faiths are meant for peace. No religion teaches the killing of innocent people, simply because they belong to another religion.”
 
They extend an invitation to all people to join them in continuing the interreligious dialogue called for by hundreds of Islamic leaders throughout the world.
 
“In 2007, they called for peace between Muslims and Christians when they wrote their famous open letter on The Common Word to Christian religious leaders. How true their words were!” the bishops continue.
 
But in recognition that this is a time of war and, in the same way as those who have gone before them have cried for no more war have found, that time has not yet arrived, and they are calling on people of all faiths to remember they are neighbours in this one world created by God and are called to invest in supporting each other.
 
While they acknowledge the great generosity that has already been witnessed in Mindanao, they quote from the letter from the Muslim scholars to the Christian leaders saying, “Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to one another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual good will.”

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