PASAY City, Oct. 13, 2014 — Recognizing shared avenues for collaboration and dialogue, some 150 religious leaders from the major world faiths and members of civil society formed the Council of Religious Leaders on Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple in Pasay City.
Calling it the “way forward”, Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue (ECID) executive secretary Fr. Carlos Reyes said the Council of Religious Leaders, which gathers representatives from the Catholic Church, Islam, Buddhists, the Hindus, among others, will be a council of various religious denominations that will not just spearhead projects and initiatives based on common values, but will form collective statements on socio-political issues like ecology and good governance on an “institutional” level
“As religionists, we have a spiritual duty to counter the hijacking of religion…Religion fosters peace, unity, justice and harmony. As religionists, we have a spiritual duty to contribute positively to culture and society, not only what we can do unilaterally but also what we can do united,” Reyes said in his opening message.
The proposed structure of the said council will have various committees for good governance, ecology, justice and peace, disaster relief, and conflict resolution. It will have a secretariat, which temporarily finds an office in the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace – Philippines (ACRP) under the leadership of Dean Lilian Sison, its secretary general.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) secretary general Fr. Marvin Mejia, who was present at the event, praised the move as a step towards the pastoral recommendations of Vatican II on ecumenism, which he lamented have largely remained just “paper”, for the Church in the Philippines.
“[The experience of inter-religious dialogue] has to go down…1965 was Vatican II.. Fifty years after, it’s still a paper in the sense that communities are not experiencing this dialogue, this sense of harmony,” Meijia said, expressing the hope that people of different faiths can come together even at the grassroots level.
The formation of the Council was preceded by an inter-faith forum which focused on “The Positive Role of Religion on Culture and Society.” Dr. Michael Lao of Buddha’s Light International Association gave a short presentation on Buddhism; Dean Julkipli Wadi of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies talked about Islam; and University of Sto. Tomas assistant professor Val Brillo presented the Catholic faith.
Invited to the event as guests were representatives from the apologist group Catholic Faith Defenders – Manila, Robertson Poblete, Masol Santiago, Mary Hao, Eric Bernardino and Danilo Lampano. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz)