Local execs show support for propagation of Muslim-Christian unity
John Unson (Philstar.com) - April 8, 2016 - 2:10am

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - So unique now are the peace efforts of Catholic pastoral leader Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, made spiritually intertwined by mounting support from Muslims and hinterland Lumad sectors.

Quevedo, concurrent archbishop of the Cotabato Diocese, which covers many Central Mindanao towns with mixed Muslim, Christian and Lumad residents, is popular for his involvement in the Mindanao peace process, which aims to put closure to the decades-old Moro issue.

Catholic traders, members of the academe, and even Muslim clerics were elated with this week’s separate announcements by high public officials of support to the cardinal’s advocacy for Muslim-Christian-Lumad solidarity.

In separate press communiqués this week, Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao and the congressional representative in the province, Congresswoman Sandra Sema, committed support to Quevedo’s effort

Lucman, who is a senior member of the ARMM’s regional peace and order council, said he found so interesting Quevedo’s campaign to educate the public on the kind of governance being offered by all candidates for president and aspirants for regional and local elective posts.

“I support the peace efforts of Cardinal Quevedo because it is centered on propagation of Muslim-Christian unity amidst religious diversities. Islam teaches us, Muslims to respect Christians, especially church leaders, and not persecute them because of religious differences,” Lucman had said.

Lucman said even his relatives in Lanao del Sur, home to conservative Maranaws, admire Quevedo for persistently asserting in peace forums that there is a need to correct first the “historical injustices” done to the Moro people as a requisite for the peaceful settlement of the Mindanao conflict.

“Most peace advocates in my province, Lanao del Sur, including myself, are inspired by the examples of Cardinal Quevedo,” Lucman said.

In his official statement, Mangudadatu said many of his nephews and nieces study in Notre Dame academic institutions in Central Mindanao, which are operating under the Notre Dame Educational Association, whose benefactors include the Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation.

Quevedo, who started as a “priest to the barrio” in the 1950s, is an OMI missionary.

“These Notre Dame schools are teaching students the importance of Muslim-Christian fraternalism and respect for one another’s religious differences. We are, in fact implementing projects in Maguindanao province that are guided by these peace principles,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu said many of his more than 5,000 college scholars, whose studies are being bankrolled by his office, are Christians from across Maguindanao province,

Sema, congressional representative of the first district of Maguindanao and all 37 barangays in Cotabato City, said she too studied high school at the Notre Dame of Cotabato For Girls in Cotabato City, now named Cotabato RVM School, run by the nuns of the Religious of Virgin Mary (RVM) order.

“I support the peace programs of Cardinal Quevedo the way Gov. Mangudadatu and ARMM Vice Gov. Lucman support them,” Sema said.

The OMI congregation, whose pontifical base is in Rome, is involved since the late 1930s in humanitarian missions promoting co-existence among Muslims and Christians in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato and in the islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Three colleagues of Quevedo in the OMI, Jolo Bishop Benjamin De Jesus and missionaries Benjamin Inocencio and Rey Roda, were killed one after another in Sulu province while engaged in missionary works for impoverished Muslim communities there. 

Despite their deaths, the OMI never pulled out from the island province, a known haven of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group.

A Cotabato City-based merchant, Pete Marquez, said the now “cross-sectional character” of Quevedo’s peace efforts will hasten the cardinal’s  propagation of co-existence among Mindanao’s culturally and spiritually pluralistic, Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities.

“It is so inspiring to see Muslim leaders express support for Cardinal Quevedo’s peace initiatives,” said Marquez, also a staunch supporter of the Mindanao peace process.

Susana Salvador-Anayatin, also involved in peace advocacy projects involving Muslim and Christian stakeholders, said what makes Quevedo’s peace programs acceptable to Muslims is his being open and so tolerant of the diversities in Islam and Christianity.

“You can never be an effective peace advocate if you do not have such kind of tolerance, if you are full of prejudices in your heart,” said Anayatin, chairperson for Maguindanao province of the National Movement for Free Elections.

Anayatin said never had she ever thought three members of the Moro nobility, Lucman, a blue-blooded Maranaw, Mangudadatu, a descendant of the 17th century Rajah Buayan clan in the upper delta of what is now Maguindanao, and Sema, a scion of the Sinsuat clan, would come to  Quevedo’s residence in Cotabato City to manifest support for his programs.

“Peace-building is always everybody’s duty,” Anayatin said.

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