Dialogues for Peace Urged; GMA Cites Cooperation of Religious, gova[euro][TM]t Leaders

Article excerpt

Byline: MARS W. MOSQUEDA JR.

15 nations represented in Mactan meeting

MACTAN, Cebu a" President Arroyo yesterday urged international religious leaders and government officials at the Regional Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, Development, and Human Dignity to promote interfaith dialogues in fighting terrorism around the world.

"What we are doing here today is every bit as important as building up military forces to fight terrorism, destabilization, and injustice here at home and across the globe," the Chief Executive told a gathering of more than 150 delegates from 15 nations at the Shangri-La Hotel in Mactan, Cebu.

In formally opening the three-day conference, President Arroyo said interfaith dialogues and intergovernmental cooperation among neighboring countries can help bring peace and understanding among people and stomp out terrorism.

The meeting, participated in by more than 150 delegates from 15 countries including New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, aims to promote understanding and harmony in the Asia-Pacific region through interaction, networking, and cooperation among leaders of various faiths and civil society groups.

The regional interfaith conference is expected to come up with the "Cebu Declaration on Regional Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, Development, and Human Dignity" which will contain specific projects aimed at promoting peace and development in the region.

Mrs. Arroyo said the historic divide between Christian and Muslims in the Philippines is narrowing dramatically due to the governmentas focus on interfaith dialogue and the peopleas willingness to accept the sincerity of those who have different religious or ethnic ideologies.

"As a result of the progress we have made in Mindanao, I am confident that peace is within our grasps and if peace in Mindanao is attained, it will be in large part due to interfaith dialogue and the intergovernmental cooperation of friends and neighbors," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo also asked participants in the dialogue to seek divine intervention so they could use their diversity creatively to come up with sustainable plans of actions towards long lasting peace and Godly transformation.

"We must follow our faith and have faith in each other if we are to truly lift up the poor, transform war into peace, and stomp down intolerance and violence brought by terrorism based on a false reading of the divine message or a misuse of a divine message that those who misused it do not believe in in the first place," Arroyo stressed.

Clark, who also spoke at the opening of the conference, said that interfaith dialogue among nations can effectively address the tension caused by religious violence.

She stressed that strengthening interfaith ties, especially in the face of increased violence, will be a long-term process, saying there is no quick solution to the current situation around the world.

"But long-lasting peace in our nations, our region, and our world can be built by a growing understanding of the values and beliefs we share in common, and by a willingness to accept and respect difference," she said.

Clark also challenged the media to help foster dialogue by fulfilling the need for accuracy, the need for balance, and good taste in reporting, especially on religious and ethnic related news.

Citing the international debate and violence triggered by the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which many in the Muslim world found blasphemous and deeply offensive, Clark said there clearly was a misjudgment in publishing the cartoons.

"I believe the central issue is one of judgment a" of whether to publish, knowing that publication would inflame tensions and provoke division. Publication in such circumstances cannot be good judgment and deserves to be criticized on that basis," said Clark.

Clark also announced that the New Zealand government has issued an invitation for the third meeting of the regional interfaith dialogue to be held in her country. …