News Release

Faith Leaders Converge During Alabang Interfaith Luncheon

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared, quoting from a scripture verse from Proverbs, during the 3rd Alabang Interfaith Luncheon.

 

Elder Wakolo expounded that the scripture verse reminded him of the vision that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had in 2012 when they met for the preparation of 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021. To him, the interfaith event held at the Las Piñas Stake (Diocese) Center of the Church on 27 February was the realization of that vision.

“I hope that you will remember the feeling of unity, harmony, cooperation and collaboration that we have heard today,” said Elder Wakolo. The member of the Philippines Area Presidency then quoted a scripture from John which spoke of unity as being children of God.

“If we focus on differences, that becomes a separator. But if we focus on common grounds and beliefs, that becomes a superglue for us. And it unites us in a very big way,” he said.

Towards the end of his remarks, Elder Wakolo shared that as the Roman Catholics celebrate the 2020 Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples (2020 Year of EIDIP), the Church of Jesus Christ will also celebrate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. He then shared about the invitation of President Russell M. Nelson to #HearHim as what Joseph Smith, Jr. had done in 1820, when he prayed to God. Moreover, Elder Wakolo shared that Alabang is a special place for the Church as the construction of the new temple will begin soon.

At the conclusion of his message, Elder Wakalo challenged the guests to continue dialoguing with other even after the celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week. “[My message is] that we may continue as people of different beliefs, coming together face to face with mutual understanding and respect, to allow us, in spite of our differences, to live and cooperate with each other, both at individual and institutional levels. May we unitedly do that.”

Dialogue Towards Harmony

It’s the 3rd time that the Church has sponsored an interfaith gathering in Muntinlupa. For this year’s World Interfaith Harmony celebration, the program focused on the theme “Dialogue Towards Harmony” and featured speakers from Uniharmony Partners Manila (UPM), a network of faith-based organizations established for the purpose of celebrating the WIHW.

Presenters included Prof. Pablito Baybado, Jr., coordinator of UPM; Dr. Lilian Sison, Secretary General of Religions for Peace; PCol. Ebra Moxsir, President of the Imam Council of the Philippines; Venerable Zhi Yi, Deputy Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple; and Dr. Genevieve Balance-Kupang, Vice-Chair of Sandiwa: Network of Advocates for Indigenous Peoples and Moro Rights.

In his part, Prof. Baybado shared about the 2020 Year of EIDIP, citing from the Pastoral Letter that the CBCP shared. He quoted, “Interreligious dialogue does not merely aim at mutual understanding and friendly relations It reaches a much deeper level, that of the spirit, where exchange and sharing consist in a mutual witness to one’s beliefs and common exploration of one’s respective religious convictions.”

Dr. Sison, who has been a part of the UPM since its inception, related how the network has expanded and evolved over the years. She shared some examples on how the partners have helped each other and shared their commonalities despite their differences in faith and creed. The family forums, peace forums, interfaith luncheons, peace camps and many other interfaith activities they have organized paved the way to a friendship that has genuine concern for one another.

Meanwhile, Imam Moxsir talked about the Muslim-Christian experience he has had through interfaith dialogue. Stereotyping a Muslim, a Christian or a Buddhist used to be a painful stigma before and a very sensitive issue to talk about. “Because of Uniharmony, there is no more discrimination,” said the Imam. “We have to respect each other’s needs and esteem other people’s beliefs and practices.”

Ven. Zhi Yi talked about the responsibility of people of faith to care for the earth. She emphasized on the need to consume more vegetables than meat. “When we do so, we spare a lot of animals from dying, make this world a better, cleaner place to live in, and we do justice to the future generation,” she said.

Dr. Balance-Kupang, who is proud of her Igorot heritage, presented a video that highlighted the rich culture of the indigenous people, particularly of the Igorots. She emphasized that even though she belongs to the indigenous sector, she is also a Christian.

“Whenever we speak of the indigenous peoples, we are reminded that we have brothers [and sisters] … We are many in the world,” said Dr. Gene. “We don’t only talk of anthropocentrism – people in the indigenous tradition. We talk of interbeing. That we care for the rest of the creation. That’s the world view of the indigenous people.”

Solidarity in Diversity

More than 80 guests were present at the luncheon, including participations from the partner agencies of UPM, Lighthouse Assemblies of God Church, UST-Manila, Missionary Society of St. Columban, Local Government of the City of Muntinlupa, New Covenant Church, Las Piñas Baptist Fellowship, TWFF, Go Forward Biñan Foundation, BCBP, and CCL.

Aside from gaining insights from the speakers, the guests enjoyed musical entertainment from a Performing Arts student of Guang Ming College and an indigenous Indonesian priest who played the Sasando, a 32-string musical instrument native from the Island of Rote, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

Interfaith Relations

Part of the teachings of the Church is building relationships with the interfaith community. Aside from being a member of the Uniharmony Partners Manila, the Church has also encouraged local church units in the Philippines to form friendships with other religions. As a result, similar interfaith gatherings took place in Davao, Bacolod, and Cebu.

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