This was what Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, founder of Silsilah Dialogue Movement (SDM), said when he received the first prize in the World Interfaith Harmony Week that was awarded to SDM by no less than King Abdullah II of Jordan last month.
D’Ambra said the recognition of SDM’s initiative in Zamboanga by the King of Jordan was made more meaningful when it came after the armed conflict in the province last September.
To recall, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari and his followers attacked Zamboanga City in the hope of taking over the local government. MNLF took civilians as hostages in an attempt to derail the government’s negotiations for a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is expected to result in a Bangsamoro Political Entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The armed tension between MNLF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had not only displaced civilians but also caused fatalities and injuries to both uniformed and civilian men.
Fr. D’Ambra told the King of Jordan that “a lot of people have been killed, ten thousand houses were destroyed and burned and more than one 150,000 people were forced to leave their houses. Many of them are still in evacuation centers today.”
“However, even in this situation we continue to celebrate the World Interfaith Harmony Week to give new hope to the people. We are convinced that this is our mission. When the forces of destruction work hard, then the forces for peace and harmony must work harder,” he said.
The long-running conflict in Mindanao has inspired Fr. D’Ambra to establish the SDM with his Christian and Muslim friends. He said his fellow volunteers continue to give hope in Zamboanga amid “so much division and often hatred between different groups.”
“The conflict in Mindanao which started in the seventies has resulted in a lot of victims, prejudices and hatred among Muslims and Christians and a lot of poverty up to now. In this context, The Silsilah Dialogue Movement was formed with the hope to build peace starting from a spiritual aspect of dialogue for peace based on love,” he added.
Fr. D’Ambra said other winners of the World Interfaith Harmony Week share in the global initiative to work for peace within and outside a religious framework. Other winners include Mr Saeed Khan Falahi and Mr Nazar Abbas of India, Mrs Eman Saddik and Mr Ashraf Godha of Egypt and Mr Michael Boyondo and Ms Irene Bulindi of Uganda.
“We know that they are striving equally hard to promote peace in their respective countries, and it is a great encouragement to meet them, exchange ideas and experiences, and to participate in this global solidarity of love of God and love of the neighbor,” he said.
We extend their appreciation of this recognition of their efforts, and we pray that we will all benefit from reaping the seeds of peace we are sowing,” Fr. D’Ambra added. (KB / CBCP News)