In 25 October 2017, the Da’wah Committee for Non-Muslim Affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the leaders of Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), along with representatives from the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Cotabato City, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and UniHarmony Partners Manila, gathered together at Camp Darapanan for a dialogue on how to pursue peace.
Dr. Aldrin Penamora, Executive Director of the PCEC Commission on Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation, served as the initiating coordinator.
In an official document, this newly organized, inter-faith Joint Working Group for Peace (JWGP) established various working committees and have committed “to work together to address the centuries-old biases and prejudices from both sides, as well as current issues of violent extremism so as to restore harmonious relationship between and among Muslims and Christians in Mindanao and in the Philippines in general.”
This is a result of a decade-long interfaith dialogue between the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In 05 July 2008, PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) led evangelical leaders to visit the office of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel at the MILF Headquarters in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The background of the conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Bangsamoro Muslims in Mindanao was revisited during the initial dialogue between the then PCEC Bishop Efraim Tendero and Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF Peace Panel. Chairman Iqbal shared the Bangsamoro narrative while Bishop Tendero shared a Filipino Christian’s narrative. For the first time, the evangelical Christians and the MILF listened to each other face-to-face.
The peace and reconciliation between PCEC and MILF was enhanced through an on-going peacebuilding cooperation on the ground. In 09 March 2011, the PCEC bishops and the MILF Peace Panel held an inter-faith dialogue on the newly-resumed peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF. Bishop Efraim Tendero, PCEC National Director, led the 78 evangelical participants—pastors, church leaders, and mission workers—representing various Christian groups in Mindanao. The MILF Peace Panel were represented by Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, Attorney Michael Mastura, and Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga.
Again in 14 May 2013, Bishop Efraim Tendero met with MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. Tendero asked Iqbal on how the Church can enhance its support to the GPH-MILF Peace Talks.
“The Church can help in the peace process more effectively if its constituents would support the hastening of the completion of the Annexes in the newly-signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Iqbal said. “The resolution to the GPH-MILF conflict is political in nature.”
The inter-faith relationship between these two religious groups grew deeper when in 02 April 2016, the new PCEC National Director, Bishop Noel Alba Pantoja, led a delegation to visit the Central Committee Office of the MILF. Chairman Murad Ebrahim welcomed the PCEC delegation personally. The two bodies discussed how leaders of Evangelical Christians and Muslim religious groups can work together for a justice-based peace and reconciliation initiatives in Mindanao and in the whole Philippines.
Dr. Penamora and his Muslim counterparts thought of expanding their inter-faith cooperation and dialogue by inviting other religious leaders whose respective constituencies would support their mutual vision. In an online discussion, Dr. Penamora shared his reflection on what God might be doing through these initiatives: “I believe God is breaking barriers… our God is a barrier-breaking God.”
The discussion became a reality. After several meetings and interpersonal relationship-building processes among various religious leaders, the present Joint Working Group for Peace (JWGP) was eventually established.
For all these, we Praise the Creator of all humanity. Alhamdulillah! Hallelujah!
MEET THE INITIATING COORDINATOR
DR. ALDRIN PENAMORA
Social Theology and Ethics
Professor Aldrin Penamora completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Social Theology and Ethics from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. He serves as the Manager of Christian-Muslim Research Center of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC). Aldrin also helps us — leaders, staff, and volunteers of PeaceBuilders Community — as we think biblically through the various justice and peace issues we are facing in advancing Peace and Reconciliation in the Philippines.
Asked how he can help the peace processes in Mindanao and how he considers the risks involved: As a Christian theologian and ethicist, I think I can be of help to PBCI in terms of theologically equipping its members. I believe I must be prepared to also suffer in following Jesus, who was persecuted and crucified. If the Lord will call me to suffer for His name, then I only pray that he give me the strength to rejoice in participating in Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13).