News Release

Religious Leaders Come Together for Interfaith Dinner in Dagupan

Right before the sunset in Dagupan City, more than 30 leaders from different faith groups gathered at the home of His Excellency Most Reverend Socrates B. Villegas, the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, to dialogue among different faiths to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation.


Most Rev. Fr. Villegas welcomed friends from the interfaith community, including leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church, Jesus Is Lord Church, Cathedral of Faith, Full Life Baptist Fellowship, Jesus Christian Community Ministry International, El Shaddai Ministry, and Filipina Independencia. Leaders from the Islam faith also attended the event. 

At the start of the gathering, Elder Raul Villanueva, an Area Seventy or traveling minister of the Church, gave the opening remarks, setting the mood for the occasion.

“It feels special to me in that I learned so much as I meet with you,” he said. Elder Villanueva then went on to share that the world, society, are facing challenges but pointed out that despite it all, “there is so much good on this planet earth that we can all share about . . . that we have [something] in common.”

Elder Villanueva, who has attended several interfaith gatherings in the past years, has expressed that celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week is also a celebration of religious differences.

“I pray that as we continue to come together in settings like this, [that we] feel the brotherhood,” he concluded.

Following Elder Villanueva, two faith leaders shared faith-promoting messages relevant to the WIHW theme, which is Celebrating Truth, Sincerity and Forgiveness.

Pastor Wayne Mancari of the Cathedral of Faith expressed joy to be in the presence of like-minded, spiritual leaders who, despite belonging to different religious denominations, share a common goal of bringing good to the community.

“Each of you has been placed in this city to be a blessing,” Pastor Mancari said. “You have been put here to make a difference.”

Pastor Mancari then shared a story about a boy stealing bicycles and used bags of sand as a diversion to distract police officers. He likened the story to the faith leaders who let themselves be distracted by the wrong things, spending too much time sifting through the sand of differences.

The pastor then encouraged everyone to find something in common in each faith, be kind to one other when there are differences, and be loving.

“We don’t compete with each other,” he reminded everyone. “We’re competing against darkness, and we have a light that we need to bring to our community. So, we need to support and encourage one another in all of our faiths.”

Pastor Mancari added, “When we say good things about one another and do good things for each other; when we’re committed to blessing one another, our city will also be blessed.”

At the conclusion of his message, the pastor shared about forgiveness. “We have all been forgiven much, and it is important that we learn how to forgive one another. That’s why truth, sincerity, and forgiveness [are] important to us.”

Ulama Hamoud Agustin of the Islam faith shared a similar message. He said that despite the difference in language, tribe or belief, everyone is united in the belief of truth, sincerity, and forgiveness.

“This is a good time to get to know each other and to know the religious beliefs or ideologies that each one believes,” he added in Tagalog.

Following the special messages, the Dagupan Catholic Diocese led a unity dance, which composed of slow synchronized movements in rhythm with a piece of relaxing, ethereal music that soothed the senses and invoked the spirit of unity in each.

As host of the interfaith dinner, Archbishop Villegas graced the event with the keynote message. He taught about peace and development. He explained that “peace is the new name of development.” He pointed out that there can be no peace when there is no total human development.

“It is the plan of God for us, for the whole of humanity, to experience the development together regardless of faith, regardless of race,” he said.

Furthermore, Archbishop Villegas reminded the guests of a scripture passage that teaches about the golden rule. “Our sacred scriptures tell us whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters we do to the Lord.”

The archbishop then shared about the importance of interfaith and its relationship with development. “Interfaith presumes God, belief in God. [The] belief that there is a higher being who controls the destiny of nations,” he said.

“Why is interfaith important for development? Because development without God will be a curse to humanity. It is only when development is accompanied by faith. It is only when development is accompanied by morality and ethics, it is only when development is recognized as a gift from the Lord that development truly becomes a blessing for the village of nations,” he concluded.

After the keynote message, Father Israel Olivo, Filipina Independencia, gave the closing prayer and blessing of the food wherein everyone enjoyed a sumptuous food.

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