Monday, August 07, 2006

I'm finally out of Africa

I'm finally out of Africa, after an intense three-week experience leaving me with very ambiguous and contradictory feelings. Of joys and hopes, of pains and frustrations.
Of not totally comprehensing the depths of meaning of this pilgrimage. Of a sense of how blessed I was to embrace the original Mother of Humankind. Of fear as to what can happen next in sub-Saharan Africa. Of wanting to stay a little longer and yet of feeling relieved that I am back home, in the safety of the familiar.

The only imagery in my mind of that last week I spent in South Africa is that of a whirlwind! And I was swept along with the wild wind's movements along with its varying consequences.

Saturday, July 22, I took the morning Nationwide Airlines flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg (Jo'burg, for short). I was brought to the airport by South African confreres, Fr. Sean Collins, CSsR and Fr. Jim McCauley, CSsR. (They also came to fetch me when I arrived at Cape Town on July 18).

In our conversations, both Fr. Collins and Fr. McCauley have commented that one of the main causes of death in South Africa (after complications arising out of HIV-AIDS) is vehicular accidents. Many other South Africans whom I had met earlier also made the same comments. As one read the local papers and watched TV, there were, indeed, many reports of people dying along the streets because of such accidents.

Because I was so engrossed with the statistics related to HIV-AIDs as well as concrete faces of people with AIDS whom I had met, the data on road accidents did not fully register. Until what happened in the evening of July 22.

That evening, Fr. Jim, his driver, Peter, Peter's wife and a Nazareth Sister went out to dinner. On their way home, they got into a head-on collision with another vehicle. Fr. Jim and Peter were dead on the spot, the two women survived but were badly hurt.

I received the news actually a few days after it happened through an email message from Fr. Sean. Naturally, I was quite stunned with the news. And I thought: if only
there was a way to know that I would met Fr. Jim for the first, but also for the last time, during that short visit to Cape Town!

Fr. Sean's news came after I was watching news on TV where a news report flashed images of a Mexican sociologist who was mugged by a group of teen-agers right outside their hotel in downtown Durban City. He had come to South Africa to attend an international conference of sociologists. After dinner, he and a Belgian woman colleague wanted to see Durban City by night. Instead, they were mugged.

The imagined face of Fr. Jim in the head-on collision and the TV image of the battered head of the Mexican sociologist added to the accumulated heartaches that had built up through the days of my South African sojourn..

Part of the reason why I came to South Africa was to attend the 6th General Assembly of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT). Lucky for us, we were not billeted in a hotel in downtown Durban City or Jo'burg where crime statistics are rising. Instead, we were out in harm's way, as we were in the Kempton Park Conference Center (owned by Lutherans) in a secured area not too far from Jo'burg international airport.

The first day of the conference was a tour of Jo'burg and its main highlight was a visit to Soweto. The delegates (16 from Asia, 14 from Africa, 8 from Latin America and 5 from US minorities), naturally, were pleased that the conference organizers made sure we would visit this historic place. Soweto is actually an acronym, standing for South-West Township. It is miles outside Jo'burg and covers quite a big area.

Soweto's claim to historic fame arose out of the uprising of students on 16 June 1976, at the height of the apartheid. A grateful nation continues to celebrate the heroism of the hundreds of students and other young people, whose action on that day helped to advance the anti-apartheid struggle which ultimately led to South Africans liberation from white rule in 1994.

The black South Africans have done much better than us Pinoys in remembering and celebrating their heroes - both the famous and the unknown, men and women, adults and children, those in the cities and the savannahs. All we could come up with are simple commemorative statues and plaques here and there.

But South Africa have built very impressive museums to honor the memory of those who took part in the long struggle to freedom and democracy. There is the museum in Robben Island and the Jo'burg Fort Entrance.

In Soweto there is the Hector Pieterson Museum and that of the family of Nelson Mandela. The former is named after the 13 year-old boy who was the among the first student who died when the police started shooting the young people as they marched the streets to oppose the apartheid regime. The main issue that triggered their demonstration was the imposition of the Afrikaan language - deemed the language of the oppressors - as medium of instruction in their schools.

The dead body of Hector in the arms of an older boy who carried him, with Hector's sister crying beside them, was an iconic image that was splashed across the frontpages of newspapers around the world. That image meets the visitors as soon as they find themselves just outside the museum.

The museum of Nelson Mandela is in itself a travel through the life history of this remarkable man and what he did for his country, along with those associated with him, especially Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, his previous wife. A few small details that the tour guide mentioned were un-expected: no one among Mandela's children have taken up their father's cause, one son died of complications owing to HIV-AIDS, a daugher has joined the Jehovah's Witnesses and no one came up to be part of the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC).

(A side comment was provided by another delegate: the children of Martin Luther King in order to accomodate President George W. Bush at the funeral of their mother, Corita King, did not include Harry Belafonte to the funeral in order to avoid embarassing moments. And yet Harry Belafonte was the one who put up a fund for them to be able to go to college. Whether true or not, when put side by side with what happened to the children of Nelson Mandela, provide very interesting stories as to what happens to children of some of the most known heroes of the world.)

The street on which Nelson Mandela's house is located is also where Bishop Desmond Tutu still lives. Those who live along this street are certainly very proud to claim that on this street two Nobel Peace Prize winners were residents. Today, Nelson Mandela lives elsewhere, but Winnie has a house at the next corner and most of the time, she lives here.

Which is to say that some parts of Soweto has changed, but other parts remain as they were during the apartheid. AFter 1994, the State have put up public housing in Soweto which radically changed the landscape of this once-blighted township. Some parts of Soweto could be our middle-class enclaves in our cities in the Philippines, with electricity and running water.

However, there are still parts of Soweto that retain its "slum" look with boxhouses where one family live in what are one-room houses with no electricity and running water. Where the people ekk out a living in nearby Jo'burg through all kinds of enslaving labor. Where kids are into drug addiction rather than into formal education that could uplift them from the harsh poverty experienced by their elders. Where women are forced to go into prostitution, making them very vulnerable to HIB-AIDS.

South AFricans would tell us later that, in fact, Soweto's situation is no longer as bad as before. If one wanted to actually see townships and informal settlements that are no different from those of the apartheid regime, one only goes to a place like Alexandria, where things are far worst.

The day's exposure was capped with a visit to the Origins Centre, another remarkable inter-active archaeological museum that celebrates South Africa's paleontological achievements as well as the richness of the San Tribe, the equivalent of our own indigenous peoples in Mindanao like the T'boli. Compared to the Maropeng Museum, it also showcases fossils recovered from the same caves but it focuses a big chunk of its exhibits to the main indigenous peoples of South AFrica, especially the San Tribe.
The documentation of their cave paintings, mytical rituals and sophisticated crafts leave the visitors in awe. However, the same visitors are heartbroken to know that most of these are glories of the past, as the present-day descendants of San ancestors have been fully assimilated into the dominant contemporary South African culture.

As a Mindanawon, I shuddered at the thought that this, too, could be the way forward of many of our indigenous peoples in Mindanao. And yet, there have been so little archaeological and anthropological research studies made to document all that which are still being practiced today despite the fact that there are supposed to be Mindanawon universities committed to this kind of scholarship. Unfortunately, unlike South Africa, provides so little budget for this sort of undertaking.

The EATWOT conference lasted for three days. The deliberations were quite interesting although it was such a big disappointment that the local hosts brought in so little of the richness of the South African culture into our liturgies and celebrations. Still we had good discussions both in terms of the global realities, especially in terms of the Third World perspectives (very much influenced by the World Social Forum) and the implications for our theologizing praxis.

In our Final Statement, we committed to the following covenant for future action and program development: 1) Concerted engagement of gender theologies and new methods for such theologizing be developed and which challenge patriarchal privileges and require the reconstruction of ideologies of all genders; 2) exploration of the authority of the biblical text in our theological endeavors along wih naming additional orgal and written sources to be engaged and explored in the formation of these new theological endeavors; 3) reaffirmation of praxiological methods which constructively engage the tensions between action on the ground and theological formations and constructions; 4) affirm our commitment as theologians to working with gender, racial, ethnic, indigenous, and sexual groups in mutuality, learning from each other to enhance the building of viable liberatory communities; and 5) the importance of developing dialogical styles and approaches to interaction with each other and with membes of other religious groups which are non-hgemonic and which affirm the humanity and worthiness of all parties in the dialogue.

Whew! That is quite a mouthful.

My last two days in Jo'burg provided a fitting end to my very special sojourn in South Africa. Two friends from decades ago, Stefan Cramer and Erika Hauff - who both used to work in the Philippines - have been in Jo'burg for five years. Fortunately, on the last two days there, they were around and were most willing to be the perfect host. They would respond to whatever else I wanted to do while I was in that country and I had three requests as these were still left unfulfilled vis-a-vis my own expectations of this travel: see a public market, get into the art scene and see the wild animals.

The public market was best on a Sunday and I could no longer stay the following Sunday so that was out. But the art scene was awesome: their own home was an exhibition space of the best of wood sculptures as they had helped put up an exhibit and these have been deposited in their house after the exhibit. They took me to the Market Theatre - scene of the radical plays that challenged apartheid rule - and we saw, THE SUITCASE, a most powerful play that could be easily translated and adapted into any Third World city which attract thousands of people from the countryside only to find out that their dreams of prosperity demand such a huge sacrifice.

The National Park we visited was a time to be with the gentle creatures, the deer and the antelope, the onyx and the wild buffalos, the ostriches and the hornbills, the lions and the rhinoceros. This, too, was a pilgrimage of sort. One imagines St. Francis in the midst of it all. And I thought of the Bible text, of that day when all animals could lie together in peace under the bright African sun. For after all, the Bible text was written on African soil.

If this could happen to animals, what more for the descendants of the first man and woman who arose out of Africa.

Out of Africa, indeed.
In the airport, most souvenir items have a tag which declares the product to be OUT OF AFRICA. I had to smile at that clever appropriation of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep's film. I bought a few for family, conferes and friends back home with the little South African money I still had.

Out of the window of that Singapore Airlines plane that took off that afternoon of July 30, I took a lingering look at what I could still see on the ground.

The savannahs glittered in the afternoon African sun, bright as ricefields ripe with golden grains across the undulating hills of some parts of Zamboanga del Sur.

I prayed for a safe trip.
And prayed, too, for South Africa.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I would like to visit graveyards

I've told some friends that for my sabbatical, I want to go on a long pilgrimage. Across some parts of the globe, wherever destiny would bring me as I refused to get into a strategic planning scheme for this one-year break. Whatever happens will happen; what is not meant to take place, will not arise. (Down with rational purposive action! Long live communicative action!)
I also told some friends I would like to visit graveyards; as recently I've developed a deeper connection with those who have moved on and what better way to connect but to visit the tombs of people I truly admire, respect and love. In fact, on my last day in Davao I went to visit the Davao Memorial Park where rests the remains of my beloved parents and a brother. That was to kick-start the sabbatical year.
Given what I have consciously desired for this sabbatical, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was that one of the first things that happened as I began my journey in South Africa was to visit a graveyard.
But this is no ordinary graveyard. As this is the graveyard of "Little Foot" and Mrs Ples. Little Foot who? Mrs Ples who? Those who have done basic Archaeology would be familiar with these names and would have immediately gasped upon reading the names. Paleontologists from the University of Witwatersrand (nicknamed Wit) have found their fossils in the place we visited today, a cave known as Sterkfrontein.
Little Foot's fossils are believed to be 3.3 million years old while those of Mrs. Ples would be 2.6 million years old.
Sterkfrontein - which has now a major museum that includes entering into the huge cave - is in the 47,000-hectare area know referred to as the "Cradle of Humankind" which is a "unique location blessed with a grater walth of the prehistory of humankind than almost any other place on earth..(consisting of) 13 major fossil sites and dozens of minor ones" according to a brochure available at the on-site museum.
More quotes from the brochure:
"Within the Cradle's 2.6 billion-year-old dolomitic hills lies a series of extensive underground caverns (Reminds me of the huge caverns in Kulaman). These geological time capsules;; have preserved thousands of fossil remnants of extinct animals, as well as the bones and cultural remains of our own ancestors, the hominins. (Hominins refer to our bipedal (the ability to walk on two legs) relatives going back to the earliest ape men".
"The story told by the Cradle's fossils is basically this: at some point around three million years ago, a hominin with a blend of ape and human characteristics occupied the Gauteng highveld. This ape man (Australopithecus africanus) was not the earliest hominin discovered in Africa, but may well have been an ancestor of our own genus Homo."
With these findings, this place have the right to claim itself as the Cradle of Humankind. If one visits this site, one is reminded that the ancestors of all humans, wherever they live today, originally came from Africa. Thus, when one visits this site, people are actually "returning to their place of origin". This is why this place is called Maropeng which in the local language known as Setswana mean - "returning to the place of origin."
With a deep sense of pride, the South Africans assert that "the outline of Africa denotes humankind's origin as a species... (given that) about 6-million years ago in Africa, our hominid ancestors evolved to stand upright, and began walking on two feet, taking their first steps along the path to humanity."
No wonder, Maropeng and the rest of this area has been declared World Heritage Site. At Maropeng is the newly-opened Cradle of Humankind Museum consisting of a huge four-storey building most of which is underground. Less than 20 minutes away, is the Sterklfontein Caves with a guided tour through the caves. Both sites are awe-inspiring with the deep significance of the fossils as well as the impressive blend of science and art aesthetics. One day is too short to fully take in all the sights and sounds, the data and information, the looking back to billions of years and taking in the challenges of the future.
It was, however, the knowledge that these ancestors were buried here that gripped my heart. Actually, we were not yet allowed to see the fossils of "Little Foot" as the work to extract the stones inside the caves is still ongoing. As for the skull of Mrs Ples it is deposited elsewhere; if I heard the guide clearly, it is still in the Wit University, being examined.
But being right there in the savannah - which consists of undulating hills where once the primal forests were and have since disappeared - where our great ancestors roamed while alive was an experience of a lifetime. I wanted to kiss the ground which now boasts of African wildflowers with orange as their dominant color.
And while climbing up and down the steep alleys of the Sterkforntein caves (which brought happy memories of being a spulenker in Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat) along with 20 other people in our tour group, I couldn't help but imagine how insects, animals and hominids walked the same alleys through the last millions of years.
It was, indeed, a most moving experience. One was constantly in awe; one was wrapped in a prayerful mood. It was truly a pilgrimage, of being in touch with the earliest of human spirits and of seeking a divine explanation to this magnificence.
After all, one gets transported to the Africa of long, long ago, of moons back.
For, indeed, "Africa gave birth in her steamy jungles and great rift valleys and along her pristine coastlinds to humankind. You and I, and all our ancestors, can trace back our bloodlines to our common ancestry in the heat, dusty and beauty of this continent."
But one's heart gets broken in this pilgrimage. There are warning signals in the museum reminding us that humans have only been in this planet a fraction of time compared to the whole cosmic reality. That there have been five periods in earth's history where extinction took place, and right now we are on the sixth with us, humans, taking a major role in making this extinction possible. As we left the museum, there are collage of photos that show wars, pollution, poverty, population explosion (there is a section that makes a count as to the total number of people in the world today which was 6.6 billion and counting) and other man-made calamities that are the clear signs of the extinction process evolving. It made me want to cry at this reality.
In that collage one could also see easily the scourge of AIDS.
Here in this part of the world where the hominids reached a new level of evolution is also where the pandemic rages.
Everywhere there are graveyards.
I will be visiting more in the days while I am here
in South Africa.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Republic of South Africa is definitely Third World

I left Manila yesterday and the Singapore flights from Manila to Changi airport and from there to Johannesburg, were, as usual, efficient and comfortable. Both flights were full to the brim. Not a minute was wasted. However, the Republic of South Africa is definitely Third World. It is such a contrast to Singapore. Getting one's baggage and going through the immigration took a whole hour. Indeed, there is quite a mix of races when one reaches South Africa: there are as many whites, blacks, Indians and other races.

I was very much touched by a gesture of an older confrere here who is quite solicitous with his confrere from the Philippines. Fr. Pat had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to be able to make it to the airport at 7:00 a.m. only to wait for another hour before he saw my face getting out of the airport into the waiting lounge.

We do not have a convent in Johannesburg, neither in the political capital of Pretoria which is along the way to Rustenburg, the nearest Redemptorist community to Johannesburg. This is close to 200 miles away. We travelled through this route in a very sunny weather yesterday morning. It is a beautiful part of South Africa. One is reminded of some of the landscapes of Australia. We cruised across a mountain range, which is considered the cradle of civilization. At some point here, the remains of the "oldest" bones of a human person was found. (We will go visit this site tomorrow, and naturally, I wish you would be there with us to see this archaoelogical site).

It is the peak of winter here, but it is a mild winter. They do not have the dark, somber and cold winters of Europe and North America. In fact, there are only a few trees that shed their leaves. Most, including those that are not evergreen, have kept their leaves. And there are blooming flowers everywhere, including their own kind of bouganvilleas. And it's been sunny yesterday and today. One walks in the yard surrounding the novitiate building and sees all kins of exotic birds just roaming around. There was even a whole flock of guinea birds roaming around the yard.

I am staying in the Novitiate community in Rustenburg, which is outside the town. There are only 3 Redemptorists here. Fr. Andy Burns who is superior and parish priest; Fr. Anthony Pathe who is the older man who met me (he serves as Vicar General of Bp. Kevin Dowling) and Fr. David, an Indian CSsR who is part of the Province of Kenya and is the Novice Master. He looks after 8 of them who are now on their retreat (composed of those from Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa). Their first profession is scheduled this coming week-end, although those from outside South AFrica will return to their countries. There are 6 incoming novices who will begin their novitiate towards the end of July.

Whole day yesterday I was in bed. My sleep was quite blissful This morning, the mass here was at 9:00 a.m. and around 200 people came to church, quite a combination of whites (many of Portugese origin), blacks and those of Indian ancestry. Because of the readings, Fr. Burns, the parish priest, thought it would be good for me to share about our justice and peace efforts in the Philippines. I did, and the congregation seemed to appreciate the way I connected the situations of South Africa and our country since their days of apartheid and our martial rule and today's realities.

The reports on the AIDS pandemic are quite horrific. I hope to spend time in a hospice set up by a Redemptorist Bishop, Bp. Kevin Dowling, to care for the dying people with AIDS in the next days. Bp. Kevin is still in Europe and is set to return on Tuesday. When he returns, I will spend time with him. His residence and the hospice are 20 miles away from the novitiate. I saw the name Ann Smith as CAFOD's person doing support work for AIDS here. I hope I get a chance to meet her here.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bikers advocate for peace across

Bikers advocate for peace across 120 kilometers

By Karl Gaspar/MindaNews / 30 November 2005

DAVAO CITY -- Once upon a time, a lone biker traversed not just Mindanao, but across the Philippines calling people's attention to the troubles of his homeland in southern Philippines and advocating for peace in Mindanao. The biker was Fr. Amado Picardal, CSsR, the Prefect of Students at the St. Alphonsus Seminary located in Bajada, Davao City, who dreamt of more bikers joining him so that it won't be such a lonely journey on a bicycle.
To his delight, last Monday, November 28, around 600 bikers joined him in the Bike for Peace, as part of the celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace. Among the 600 were 50 priests, like Fr. Picardal, more popularly known as Fr. Picx. One of the 50 was a bishop -- Msgr. Romulo Valles of Kidapawan. Thus, we no longer have just biking priests, but a biking Bishop as well. The rest were priests from the Dioceses of Marawi, Kidapawan, Digos and Davao.
Fr. Yrap Nazareno and Fr. Nilo Tabania are diocesan priests belonging to the Diocese of Marawi. They brought their bikes from Karomatan, Lanao del Norte to Makilala, Cotabato. There, they joined those who biked towards Digos City along with Bishop Valles and around 20 priests from the Diocese of Kidapawan. Their banners and flaglets announced them as the Bike Riders of the Diocese (BROD) of Kidapawan.
Fr. Picx led the more than 200 bikers from the Redemptorist grounds in Bajada, Davao City at 7:00 a.m. Before 11:00 a.m. they reached Digos City where they met with those coming from Makilala. Everyone took a break at the grounds of the Digos City Hall before taking off again for Davao.
More priests from Davao City and Tagum City joined the bikers that brought the number of biking priests to around 50, including Msgr. Julius Tonel, one of the Vicar Generals of the Archdiocese of Davao, and the members of the faculty of the Regional Major Seminary. The priests stood out in the biking crowd owing to their bright red-white-black and yellow-white uniforms.
At 12:45 p.m. the biking crowd had swelled to around 600. After going around the streets of Digos City, they took the highway towards Davao and what a sight they were as clergy and laity, women (four of them) and men, young and elderly, slim and well-endowed, professionals and students rode on bicycles for a cause.
The signs that were pinned on the backs of the bikers and the flaglets that adorned the vehicles and motorcycles that joined the journey proclaimed the wish and prayer of the Bike for Peace. The words of the signs included: PEACE BASED ON JUSTICE! KALINAW MINDANAW! PEACE TALK HINDI PUTOK!
Before 2:30 p.m. the first bikers at the front entered the city boundary. Given their number, it was easy to affect the flow of traffic, as vehicles also multiplied with commuters coming back to the city after the three-day week-end vacation. By 3:30
most of them were already at SM and they moved through the traffic and crowd that cheered them on along the Boulevard-Agdao-Cabaguio-Bajada route. By 4:00 p.m. they reached the Redemptorist grounds to rest, have snacks and share about their biking experience.
At 5:30 p.m. a Eucharist was held inside the Redemptorist church. A good number of the biking priests concelebrated with the members of the Redemptorist community and the main presider, Bishop Valles.
In his homily, Bishop Valles answered his own question as to why there was this Bike for Peace. His answers: "To highlight our yearning for peace" and "to sacrifice to show our commitment to working for peace!"

Christmas 2005 - Brother Karl Gaspar

There is a lull this late afternoon of Christmas day that allows me the time to write you this letter.

An hour from now, my confreres (totalling one Irish, 8 Thai and 13 Pinoys) will come together for our Christmas meal and party. There will be delicious food, wine, coffee, candies, gifts, music and laughter to be shared. These are, of course, the perks of religious community life.

Out there, it is wet. Those of us in Davao and, probably, the whole of Mindanao have had rains the past weeks owing to some tropical depression that hit the Visayas earlier (or is there another climactic reason?). The Weather Bureau, the other week, did forecast a wet Christmas. On Dec. 23, I went to an ordination of our parish in Maa, Davao City and there were heavy rains practically during the whole ceremony. Some of us in the back had to bring out our umbrellas even if we were inside our church. Most of Dec. 24 and today - Christmas day - there were rains from the sky.

While in other seasons and times, the rains signify blessings, I wonder what the rains are trying to tell us these past few days.

The heavens are not pleased with how things have been in this country? In Mindanao?
The heavens weep seeing how things have deteriorated in this land that is supposed to be blessed? At how much suffering the people still are subjected to?
The heavens fear what are going to happen next?

Maybe for a few, the times are not so bad at all.
But, I believe, for most of the people in this land, these are not the best of times.
Are we in the worst of times? Or at the worst still to come.... shortly or within the
next years still?

I imagine how things must be up in the uplands of Sultan Kudarat where I spent the Christmases from 2002 to last year's. When our team left Kulaman, times were very hard as there was a drought, which further aggravated the already bad situation owing to rat infestation, the spiralling down of the prices of the farmers' produce and the coming in of land speculators intent on bringing in the plantation model of agriculture.

I got assigned to Davao end of September and the last three months gave me an idea how life is here in the metropolis. It's been quite tough for me, adjusting to a completely different setting of a new ministry. I miss the uplands badly and my body embodied the pain of separation. Away from the early morning fog and fireflies, the cool mountain springs and hills that undulate forever, the colors of indigenous culture and the warmth of simple folks. It can be quite unhealthy moving from upland to the lowlands even for a nice city such as Davao.

Times are tough. Returning to my home city, I am closer to relatives and long-time friends. I have more occasion to meet with them, they provide me with the concrete stories of people's lives caught in the present crisis. I have a nephew with five young kids (one year to 15) who lost his job four months ago and is finding it difficult to find another job. Just before Christmas, their electric and water lines were almost cut off because he couldn't pay for the bills until my elder sister came to his aid.

Down the road where my nephew lives, is a whole Mamanua clan come to Davao from Surigao. A businessman-friend of mine and I went there last Christmas to distribute rice. They had to relocate themselves and where they now live, their abode is even more skeletal; the past rains have made things a lot more difficult for them. There are a thousand more indigent families - who must have come from all over southern Mindanao - who live around this area. And since a highway traverses the place, the traffic flow through this main road has intensified. So also the people lining up the streets with makeshift signs greeting the motorists - Meri Krismas! It used to be only a few children would line the streets with their signs. Lately, also adults have done so and their numbers have quadrupled. I noticed some of them this year put up shanties along the road so they had protection from the weather owing to the rains.

Digong, the city mayor is a legend in these parts of the country. He made it to the pages of Time or Newsweek some years back. Structuralist-oriented development workers may not agree with his moves, but he tries to do his best given the circumstances. He alloted funds for the indigents this Christmas so there is food on the table on Christmas day. He does not trust his own bureaucracy for the distribution of these food gifts, so he mobilized the parishes to do the distribution. Even if we were ambivalent about this whole thing, our own parish became a conduit for 500 indigents. They came for Mass last Dec. 22 and after the Mass, they fell in line and each one got a black pail with rice, sardines and other goodies.

Over at Agdao, where the parish priest is also the Social Action Director, Nonoy, my good friend told me, there were 1,500 pails that were delivered. And Nonoy did mention while I had breakfast at their home on Dec. 23, that the number of summary killings in Davao has recently gone down drastically. When I mentioned it to a media friend later that day, she cynically retorted: "But that's because we have a big ASEAN tourism here early next year!"

I knew deep in my heart that a good number of those who fell in line for the food gifts - who were mostly women - did not want to be there at that moment, but did they have any choice? Going out of our church carrying the rather heavy black pail wasn't the usual idea of leaving the church blessed by the generosity of the heavens. Many of course would have prayed for Digong, therefy cementing the myth even more.

I had dinner with another friend and his family evening of Dec. 23. Like Christmases of yore, the whole family go around the city to see the lights which always delights the youngest kid, Kiko, who is like a grandson. They thought it was a good idea that I would join them and, even as I was quite tired, I was game. Another good friend who have seen these lights before joined us. It was not yet 10 in the evening when we went around. Sure, there were lights at the City Hall, again thanks to Digong. If I were a seven year old kid, I would love Digong for putting up these lights; they're a delight to children's need for a fantasyland.

However, where lights used to shine brightly during the Christmas season - the malls, the rich enclaves (one of which is within our parish) and corporate headquarters - these were dimned this year. At the subdivision of the rich like Ladislawa and the Insular Village, only the guard house had lots of Christmas lights. The homes had very modest Christmas decor: we were kidding that, perhaps in Agdao or Bangkerohan, there were more lights. If the rich are hurting, what more for those who have so much less in life?

The Badjaos and the other Lumads come down to the city during this season to do their type of "carolling". Somehow, I noticed there were less of them around. Transport fares from their homes in Bukidnon have become quite prohibitive? Or they already knew there was less money in the city and they would only get a pittance. Still going home this noon from a rendesvous with my nephews, nieces and grandchildren, I saw a whole bunch of Badjaos crossing a street near the Ateneo de Davao University. There must have been thirty of them and most were below 13 years old. I noticed something quite odd: not one was holding anything in his/her hand; they were all empty-handed on Christmas day.

I was to rendezvous with my very young relatives at the mall (NCCC) in Matina; which we've been doing for years now since the kids could walk and buy a gift for themselves. We had all assumed that the mall would be open at 10 a.m. like last year. To our disappointment it was to open only at 12 noon. Business is not that good, one hazards to guess the reason. But my younger sister, Helen, who bakes delicious cakes (carrot, durian, chocolate and ube) commented that this year, she got only twice the orders she had last year. And those who ordered wanted smaller sizes.

The business mood turned even more morose owing to the rains, especially for those in Bangkerohan. Passing by there this morning, the smell at the open vegetable market was not very pleasant, as vegetables were rotting and there were less customers. The vendors' faces did not reflect the delightful looks of Christmas celebrity models.

Pastilan.... I could go on and on and spoil your Christmas day.

I should be thankful though. There have been blessings and my heart can only be very grateful for this. Being assigned in Davao means more time to be with relatives and friends. I've been more accessible, so there's been really good times spent with the best of friends and life in a religious community has taken on a welcome stability not quite possible living the itinerant way.

Another health scare has shifted to a non-scare scenario and I do feel good. I must thank my friends who are into wholeness for introducing me to ways of staying healthier. I've had more time doing gardening here in our grounds. I've socialized more in some of these, I've had delightful moments of gaining more knowledge and insights. I've been able to help more the NGOs I am connected to. My book - Mystic-Wanderers In the Land of Perpetual Departure - got published and we had really nice launchings in the company of people I deeply care for. And I've had fun teaching at our seminary as the students have been really affirming.

And somehow I just get a sense that my life, like wine, gets better as I get older.

So there.
A Christmas that highlights what is absent and present.
A Christmas that allows us to count our blessings even as we remain
perpetually dissatisfied with how things are.
A Christmas that brings back memories of the past but which also
makes us look forward to the best that is still to come.

And I quote the song:
Although it's been said, many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you.

With my love,


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Reflections after a few days in Vietnam

Here's my reflections after a few days in Vietnam. I will still be here until August l4. I hope, one day, you will get a chance to visit this fascinating country.

It is the seventh of August in the year 2005 and I find myself in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.

In my youth it was the city of Saigon. Almost every Filipino knows, of course, there was this musical - Miss Saigon as Filipinos were very much part of this West End-Broadway production. I think of myself as being a Filipino in Saigon these days, even as officially this city had been renamed Ho Chi Minh.

In my youth, there was a war that raged in the country that had this city named Saigon. During the time of the war, the country was referred to in terms of the North and the South. Today, it is re-unified People's Republic.

Despite the fact that I knew very little about this place, Vietnam held a special place in my heart when I was a young man because of the war that raged for years. As I began to see how unjust this war was to the Vietnamese people and how the government of the United States of America acted in the most evil manner, I joined the worldwide clamor for the end of the war.

That was to be my first leap towards activism thạt dealt with an international issue. And I held on to such a position until the war of independence was won. My father did not share my views on Vietnam and that caused an internal strife in terms of our own relationship. This was a story repeated in many homes all over the world.

This was why through all these years I had wanted to visit Vietnam. If it was possible to do so, immediately fater their liberation, I would have come. But the possibility of visiting Vietnam eluded me for three decades.

Finally, there was this chance to visit Vietnam.

The Redemptorist Brothers of Asia-Oceania were holding their regional meeting in Ho Chi Minh from August 7 to 11 and it afforded the first time to visit this land which held a special meaning in my heart. This 3-day conference is being held at the Redemptorist monastery in Ky Dong, just a few kilometers from the very heart of Ho Chi Minh.

I knew I was in for a shock at the changes of this country since it embraced liberal capitalism. But no matter if I psyched myself up to cope with what I would see in terms of its embrace of globalization., still when I began to see the images of the post-war and post-modern Vietnam (which, naturally, is very evident in a city like HCM), the shock has not been mild at all. And its impact has brought a mixed of deep emotions.

Aas soon as we hit the airport, it seemed as if there were only a few traces of the old Vietnam left e.g. the elegant dress of the Vietnamese women and the Vietnamese language - although in Roman alphabet. (Unlike the Thai and Korean, they've lost thier original script, thanks to the French colonialists including the missionaries). However, most of the signs in the Vietnamese language referred to products being sold in the global market. One does not need to understand the Vietnamese language to understand the advertisements as the logos are the same everywhere globalalization's fingers have reached.

So, the HCM airport is really no different from Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok, Hongkong and the other metropolitan cities of westernized Asian cities. In and around the airport, there is a lot of buzz which immediately provides the first-time visitor the images of what this country has become. And one can imagine, how it will look in the next few years. Already beside the present airport, another big building is being constructed which could possibly be a very modern airport in the future.

Taking the ride from the airport to Ky Dong, where our monastery is, became a short journey that introduced the visitor to HCM city's historical, socio-eco-political and cultural realities. It is easy to fall in love with HCM: its tree-lined boulevards, the old colonial buildings that have been restored, the post-war buildings with its pastel colors, the flow of thousands upon thousands of motorcycles that flow like rivers down the streets, the colorful food markets, the cafes and all other patterns of beauty that a vibrant city offers.

It is clean and orderly. There are very few beggars on the streets. The sidewalks are not clogged with vendors. Everyone seems to be employed even if many would be self-employed. There is relatively tolerable traffic flow and the traffic lights are in good shape. There are a lot of constructions going on, new buildings rising up. One is impressed. It is easy to accept that at the rate Vietnam is growing and developing, they will soon catch up with the Philippines and then overtake us. In possibly less than ten years, they will be like Thailand.

Of course, one is not so naive as to think this is the new Paradise. Vietnam remains a police state and in the next few days since our arrival we would hear stories of how the police could just come to our monastery to do "inspection." A Filipino missionary who has come here three years ago with "businessman" as the profession in his passport, still cannot stay togethe with the congregation's formands; their house was also recently "inspected" by the police who came looking for "a foreigner".

For Filipinos already used to the freedoms we are enjoying, such stories do bring up questions such as: "Does anyone bother to raise a voice about human rights violations? Is there any place where one can register one's objections to such violations of human rights?" When posed to Vietnamese friends, there is just a smile on their faces which serve as answers to the questions. Still some of them would not be too bothered with this reality; a few would even say, it is really a police state anymore.

Most, however, will not deny the corruption that exists. Maybe it is not as widespread and as prevalent as in the Philippines, but it is there in the manner that the government conducts its affairs. When a service is rendered, there is not just the demand for a payment of the service, but an "envelope" is added which requires some bills to be enclosed. The kind of corruption in this country is where government bureaucrats over-state the required amount for whatever is budgetted. What is pocketed is divided along the different levels of the bureaucracy.

The first place I wanted to see when we had the chance to tour the city was the War Museum. It is a must, not just for tourists, but for the citizens, especially those who never experienced the war years. The morning we went there, there were quite a number of tourists; however, there were ten times more Vietnamese visitors, most of whom were school children on field trips.

Whoever designed and put together this museum ought to be congratulated. It is a model of a war museum that has elements of the memorial, temple and uninversity: to remember what took place, to be reminded of a people's sufferings, to honor the million Vietnamese who died in the course of this war, to celebrate the heroism of those who fought the oppressors, to show appreciation to those who expressed solidarity and to denounce and highlight the evils of war. Spending time here, one is frozen in time and remembers what that war was like.

The famous photographs that appeared in newspapers and magazines or served as footages in the TV coverage of that war were all here: the My Lai massacre, the bombardments at Da Nang, the Hue offensive, the naked little girl that run the street in the village hit by napalm bombs, the GI soldiers hit in the battlefields, the people crossing rivers as they run away from the battles, the university students shot in the U.S. as they rallied against the war, war scenes after war scenes....

And a thousand more fragments of the war are exhibited: parts of planes that crashed, bullets and bombs, grenades and rifles. And to cap the exhibit are the infamous "tiger cages", the site for the "reeducation" for Vietnamese who were partisans in the war which were torture chambers to inflict fear on a population that ultimately were won over by the validity of that war. Seeing the tiger cages, I realized that our experiences in the Philippines during martial rule, no matter how they were also evil acts perpetuated, were really nothing in comparison.

But what's happened to the memory of that war?

Does anyone still remember

after one views the exhibit in the War Museum?

Apparently, the Vietnamese have forgiven the Americans who today are as welcomed to Vietnam as other citizens of the world. Along with their goods and cultural products - the music videos, the Hollywood films, the KFC (McDonald has not open yet) and other junk food, the Coca-Cola, the fashions, the technology - the Americans are very much appreciated, even "loved". So even if the Vietnamese won that war against the American GI soldiers and proved to Washington that giants could be slaughtered by hobbits, in the end, who actually won the war?

One cannot make any judgment against decisions made by a people on their journey towards a future they want for their children. I've been here less than a week and I've only seen a tiny part of the country, so I cannot claim to know much of this reality. I could only claim to have gazed on a tiny fragment.

Still, I am bothered and bewildered.

It is early to make a sense of my musings. These are but the initial reflections of a traveller that seeks to be reflexive about what he enounters in his journey to this land that the filmmaker, Francis Coppola, had linked to the novel with the title - THE HEART OF DARKNESS, if my memory serves me right. The film is, of course, APOCALYPSE NOW! which I saw in Davao City in l976 (?).

There is a darkness here somewhere.

But there are also lights that erupt in-between the cracks.

I still have a week more to spend in this fascinating country.

I intend to deal with the darkness while seeking the light

so I leave this country with a spark of hope

in my heart.


Sunday, July 31, 2005



Karl M. Gaspar CSsR


Peace to you all my brothers and sisters who are gathered today in this conference. Owing to the circumstances that went beyond my control, I could not be here with you to read this paper myself. I apologize for that. I had begged off from Fr. Toots and Weng when I realized there was a conflict of schedules. However, they insisted that I still write my paper and they will find someone else to read it here today.

Owing to my human limitations, specifically, my inability, unlike angels and saints, to be in two or three places at the same time, I could not be at Titus Brandsma this morning. Being a Redemptorist, my first priority is with my congregation. Today, August 1, is the feast of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, our beloved founder. The Davao community – as a way to celebrate this feastday, as well as the golden anniversary of the Davao foundation and the centennial of our presence in the Philippines – is sponsoring a symposium where I am one of the speakers. So while ________ is reading this paper, about the same time, I am delivering a talk at the Davao symposium. However, I hope to catch up with you here in this Conference tomorrow.

The invitation for me from the Center of SpiritualityManila was to share my thoughts on A Spirituality of Interfaith Dialogue. When I asked them what were their expectations of my talk, they wanted me to share my own lived experiences in this field as well as conceptual musings on the topic. I had the impression that the organizers of this conference wanted a more personal account, bordering on a narrative, rather than a highly scholarly presentation that would cater more to the cognitive rather than the affective.


This suited me fine. Since turning fifty and having engaged the theories of Jurgen Habermas, Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel De Certeau and Filipino scholars who have privileged the agency-structure framework, my own bias in the field of research and documentation has been towards a greater sensitivity to reflexivity.

There are various consequences to such a stance. (*) It demands taking into serious consideration the perspective and views of actors in the socio-cultural setting and what accounts for their agency even as they are located within social structures. It highlights the workings of the self and the issues of the self. It requires of the researcher and author to be self-reflexive, that is, to factor him/herself in the process from conceptualization to textualization. This requires of the researcher-author to be continuously conscious of one’s lifeworld, habitus, capital, interests and trajectories.2 It also acknowledges that one’s analysis and conclusions constitute only one of the possible ways of interpretations; one can never be so arrogant as to assert that this is the interpretation that has to be valorized.

Which brings me towards the rather embarrassing need to inform you where I am coming from. My father’s ancestors are from Capiz; my father’s father was a small landowner who joined the Katipunan when it spread to Panay. That meant the Gaspar clan became active members of the Philippine Independent Church or the Aglipayan Church. My mother’s ancestors are from Pangasinan but she grew up with her grandmother in Tondo where the post-Katipunan fervour was integrated into both the nascent labor and nationalist culture movements. My mother belonged to a theatre group where she sang in zarzuelas staged across what is now Metro Manila. Her religiosity was very much nurtured by her grandmother’s devotions to the Sto. Niño, the Nazareno of Quiapo and the Birhen sa Antipolo.

Both departed their homes and moved to the deep south, as part of the big wave of migrants who sought their fortune in what was then referred to as Land of Promise just before the outbreak of the Second World War. They met in what is now Davao City where I was born. However, I grow up in Digos, a small town sixty kilometers south of Davao City. There – long before I knew there was such a thing as a dialogue of life and faith with peoples of other cultures and faith traditions – my family and neighbors were “dialoguing” with Muslim Tausogs (who were originally from Jolo), the indigenous Bagobo (the aboriginal people of this coastal area) and the Chinese businesspeople (who were most probably Buddhists) in the “everyday reality of a small town.”

The Tausogs lived on the other side of the road in our part of the town which was nearest to the river. The Bagobos resided in the hills to the north of the poblacion; they had to walk a few kilometers to the town market where they sold their products and since our house was along the route, I would get to see them almost every Sunday. And when I needed to buy bread and other stuff, I needed to go to the Chinese stores which were just a ten-minute walk from our house. Since Digos did not have an Aglipayan church, my father eventually embraced my mother’s Catholicism. There were two Protestant chapels in the town; the one of the UCCP was across the elementary school where I studied and the other was that of the Seventh-Day Adventists which was across the high school where I was later enrolled. Our parish priest, the Brothers who run the high school and the sisters who administered the local hospital were French-Canadian missionaries who came to Davao from the l940s to 60s.

I guess that if the child was the father of the man, my current interest and practice in the field of interfaith dialogue developed very early on since I was a boy growing up in Digos. Since my childhood, I’ve had the singular privilege of being exposed to various cultural and faith traditions. And I have my parents to thank for that; if they did not migrate to the south, I wouldn’t have that kind of a background. What also contributed to my habitus - which made me quite open to a Christian theology of religious pluralism later on in my adult life - was my own parents’ attitude to and behavior with the multiple ethnicities in our town. My father – despite the average Christian settler’s bias against the other – was quite gregarious and, given his gift to learn other people’s languages, went out of his way to inter-act with them. My mother’s sense of good neighborliness and generosity made her quite approachable to both the Tausogs and Bagobos.

I grew up witnessing the manner in which they inter-acted with those of other cultures. Naturally, I internalized their attitude and easy ways of dealing with peoples of other faiths. If there were activities in the parish then which correspond to those being initiated by inter-religious dialogue groups today, I’m sure our family would have been drawn to such initiatives, especially if these took place in our neighborhood.

This was why, ten to twenty years later, when finally, the Church in Mindanao-Sulu began to have initiatives in the early pioneering years of a “dialogue of faith and life” with both Muslims and the Tribal Filipinos3 it was very easy for me to see the importance, validity and imperative need for such a dialogue.4 However, it was mainly through the eyes of Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud, that I was better able to read the realities of potential intensified conflicts between the settlers and the Moro people but also the hope that could come with a process of healing and reconciliation. It was through his heart that I internalized the need to embrace the shadows of the humanity of the Muslims and the Lumads as well as the richness of their cultures and faith traditions. And it was through his spirit that I realized that an engagement in such a dialogue would demand a selfless lifetime commitment.

Those of us who were lucky and privileged enough to be associated with Bishop Tudtud before his tragic death would be one in claiming that we became different persons after encountering him in our lives. We were never the same after literally sitting at his feet as we listened to his musings on why he made the missiological shift and as he invited us to share his dream. My own life’s trajectory changed radically after spending time with him from l974 to l985, especially during the years when he was chair of the Board of the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference and I was the Executive Secretary.


There are those who would differentiate the use of inter-religious and inter-faith dialogue. I am not going to dwell on the distinction between these two terms in this paper. Jacques Dupuis in his book, Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, used the two terms interchangeably. Bishop Tudtud, since he made the shift, coined the term “dialogue of faith and life”5; his preference then would be inter-faith dialogue. In this paper, like Dupuis, I use the two terms interchangeably.

Today, interfaith-dialogue has become very popular and acceptable. There have been a lot of researches, studies and documentations on the various inter-religious dialogue (IRD) initiatives. All sorts of literature – from the biblical, missiological, theological and pastoral perspectives – have appeared as theses and dissertations, manuals and books. Unfortunately, there is far more textualization from the theoretical framework and biblico-theological perspectives; there is yet very little that has been written in terms of actual and concrete lived experiences especially coming from the base. Subjects on IRD are taught in the seminaries, various conferences and workshops have tackled this subject especially all over Asia. Both religious congregations and dioceses are allocating resources for what is considered today a most important pastoral priority.

This was not the case when Bishop Tudtud began to assert his prophecy in this field in the mid-70s to the early 80s. Despite some of the writings that came out of Vatican II, it took a while before Local Churches picked up some of the ideas leading to IRD.6 I remember what happened at an MSPC meeting which was meant only for the Mindanao-Sulu bishops sometime in l977 or l978, the very first time that Bishop Tudtud formally offered his thoughts on this kind of dialogue. This was a meeting that took place more than a decade after Vatican II. An RGS sister and I were allowed to attend this meeting to be available for technical needs.

Up to this day, I can still distinctly remember the reaction of practically all the bishops. Practically all of them did not understand what Bishop Tudtud was talking about. Perhaps they did have an inkling what was in Bishop Tudtud’s mind; however, the ideas were so new and radical and the consequences so unacceptable that they had difficulties owning the ideas. The questions that immediately surfaced during the open forum revealed where most of the bishop’s were at: Do you mean to say that we have to leave our residences and live simply among the Moros? Do you mean to say we have to close our schools, radio stations and hospitals? Do you mean to say that we stop building churches?

Fortunately, the Spirit was at work at that very moment. Despite what could have been a most frustrating and disappointing session, Bishop Tudtud went ahead concretizing his vision in the newly-erected Prelature of Marawi. As the cliché goes, the rest is history. Today, what happened in the Prelature of Marawi since the late l970s has become a prototype of how a Local Church should respond to the challenges of interfaith dialogue. A growing number of bishops all over Asia has since embraced this pastoral thrust even as the late Pope John Paul II became a major voice promoting dialogue.

I took to heart Bishop Tudtud’s words at that meeting. After joining the Redemptorists and being engaged in popular missions in Mindanao, I have sought to promote dialogue wherever I found myself along with the members of our itinerant mission team, made up of Redemptorist priests, Brothers and lay missionaries. We have dialogued with both Maranaw and Maguindanao Muslims in Lanao and Cotabato, with Subanens of Zamboanga del Sur and Dulangan Manobos of Sultan Kudarat. I have joined various gatherings of church workers – from the Asian Journey to the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) – to extend my IRD experiences outside of the country. And lately, through the auspices of the CSM, I did a research study on the spirituality of Mindanawon religious engaged in urgent pastoral ministries such as IRD to have a deeper inkling into the spirituality of inter-faith dialogue.7


While doing a review of related literature for this research study, I encountered various understanding and definitions of spirituality. Conn refers to it as both “a lived experience and an academic discipline” (1991: 972) which is descriptive and analytic (rather than prescriptive and evaluative) and which involves an approach which is interdisciplinary, ecumenical, cross-cultural, inclusive and holistic. For purposes of a definition, I list down the ones that resonated with the study I just finished:

It is the “experience of consciously striving to integrate one’s life in terms not of isolation and self-absorption but of self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives” (Schneiders l989: 684 as cited in Legazpi 2002: 106). It is the “path that leads to self-transcendence (Au and Cannon 1995: 10). It is a “kind of ‘framework’ or ‘set’ of values, symbols, doctrines, attitudes and practices which persons or a community sets about trying to make their own in order to able to cope with a particular situation, to grow in the love of God and self-transcendence, and/or to accomplish a particular task in life or in the world” (Bevans 2000: 134, cited by Zabala 2004: 178).

This particular task is IRD or interfaith dialogue. By now practically everyone knows the different forms of IRD to include: the dialogue of life, action, theological exchange and religious experience.8 In terms of the actual pastoral initiatives and sustained efforts on the ground, these have remained quite limited – owing to various factors including “deep-seated fears and hurts; prejudice and ignorance; the politicalization of religion; the disintegration of the Asian socio-cultural fabric by the forces of globalization and consumerism; rise in communalism and religious fundamentalism; and bigotry and self-righteous attitudes” - and need to be more promoted, systematized and better coordinated.9

We in the Christian Churches could also be critiqued in terms of our location in the various parts of Asia which in itself could serve as block for the intensive promotion of IRD. FIRA V made this critique in explaining while the Church has remained slow in responding to what they referred to as “the need of the hour, the call of he time”, namely, that many churches in Asia continue to “be disengaged from the local cultures and religions”, they view “other religions as competitors to be displaced rather than as allies to be in partnership with”. FIRA V called on the Churches to be more “rooted in the Asian socio-cultural matrix and remained grounded in Asian soil”, to be in “direct contact with the peoples and religions in Asia” and to be “not only respectful of the peoples and surroundings of Asia but also (to) be very much identified with them … especially the poor and common people”.10

Dialogue presumes communication; in turn, communication, presupposes actors or agents talking to one another. However, there are IRD advocates who speak of a dialogue “beyond talk” which highlights the “dialogue of life as the locus of non-verbal IRD” (Hensman 1999: 323). This is why it is imperative for the Church to move towards a greater rootedness and groundedness in the localities of peoples of various cultures and faith traditions. Those of us engaged in IRD will need to be located among the ordinary people and not isolated in our ghettoes if our IRD initiatives were to produce more seeds. This, too, was highlighted by Bishop Tudtud since the start of the articulation of his vision and this was why he insisted on “dialogue of life” before faith.

The taxonomy of IRD involving the four forms shows that those action, theological exchange and religious experiences tended “to occur in formally organized and planned events” which have “a degree of predetermination”.11 It is in the area of dialogue of life that a dialogue “beyond just talking” could take place. Such experiences have been taking place for decades and they continue to unfold which provides us with a hope for the future such as those taking place among Christians and Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims and Christians in Indonesia and the Philippines, Hindus and Christians in India and others.12

There are a number of new insights into evolving realities and dynamics among people’s intra- and inter-personal relationships that need to be taken into consideration in our IRD efforts.

Highlighting agency, all of us who want to be involved in IRD will need first to face ourselves and search our hearts to find out how ready we are for such an engagement. We need to begin with some kind of an “interior dialogue” with ourselves which involves assimilating “the ascetic and contemplative traditions whose seeds were sometimes already planted by God in ancient cultures prior to the preaching of the gospel” (Ad Gentes as cited by van Leeuwen 2000: 48).

The first form of interior dialogue is instruction that help us to counter whatever negative views, prejudices and stereotypes we have of peoples of other faiths. It also makes it possible for us to understand the place of other religions in the “economy of salvation, their values, symbols and practices” and to find these “indispensable” (Leeuwen 2000: 48). Again, this process is better facilitated and nurtured if our everyday contact with those of other faiths is greatly enhanced by our location in the communities where we converge. Prayer further intensifies our need for interior dialogue.

A very important task of a person who wants to have an IRD practice is to find out one’s tendency towards ethnocentrism. There is hardly a faith tradition in the world that is not embedded in a particular cultural context. There is no religious system that is situated in a cultural vacuum. There are no believers that manifest their religiosity and spirituality without the use of cultural myths, artifact and symbols. Whether belonging to the great religions of the world (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam) or social-religious traditions (Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shamanism and the like), the believers manifest their belief system through cultural materials and expressions.

It is therefore important to integrate an effort to have a better understanding of other peoples’ culture in our IRD. This way “through dialogue and collaboration with followers of other religions… (we are able to ) acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values of their society and culture”.13 By being converted into a mindset that makes us more sensitive and appreciative of other peoples’ cultures, we are empowered to distance ourselves from an ethnocentrism that serves as a major block towards greater harmony and solidarity with other ethnicities.

We also need to understand not only the cultural context of the ethnicity of our dialogue partners but also their socio-historical background. For us in the Philippines, for example, if we want to have a more sustained IRD with the Muslims in the south, it is important to understand that the Muslims constitute the Moro ethnic community in a sense that they are a “self-perceived group of people who hold in common a set of traditions not shared by the others with whom they are in contact “ (De Vos and Romanucci-Ross, 1975: 9 as cited in Che Man, 1990: 2) and who share “’primordial’ ties around which to build a sense of community” including “traditions as common myths of descent or place of origin, sense of historical continuity, and distinct cultural practices” as well as religion and language (Che Man, Ibid).

While having a firmer historical grasp that makes us see the residue of colonization in how we relate to each other as different ethnicities, we also need to be better able to deal with the workings of the political economy so we can see that processes leading to IRD involve maneuvering through the asymmetrical relationships between and among groups and sectors of society. Appropriating Bourdieu’s habitus-capital-field triad (Bourdieu and Pilario 2004) (*), there is need to acknowledge that the different would-be dialogue partners have differences in their hold of social, symbolic and cultural capital. Access or in-access to such capital may facilitate or block participation in IRD as well determine its direction in the future.

So also how dialogue partners should be dealing with contemporary politics. Of special consideration is the ongoing dialogue between Muslims and Christians in what is now referred to as “the time of terror” following the events that have unfolded since 9/11 that has somehow lead

to the demonization of Islam14 and the consolidation of religious fundamentalism on both the side of Muslims and Christians.15

All these are required input into the exterior dialogue which consists in the “actual meeting with people of other religions for a common witness to and sharing of basic religious values and for working together for the common concerns of the human family”.16 Some suggestions on how this exterior dialogue could take place are sharing in common enterprises, having common study and reflection, conduct of common prayer and dialogue in “live-together” sessions and through participation in inter-religious dialogue.17 Common enterprises could be in the area of justice, peace and integrity of creation. Attendance at each other’s religious ceremonies, rituals and faith celebrations could help cement the relationships in the context of IRD. The ideal would be for the dialogue partners to understand the “language” used by both, not just in terms of the meaning of words but also of symbols.18

Still, for those whose IRD practice is among ordinary folks in very ordinary sort of grassroots settings, it remains important to emphasize the key role of dialogue of life beyond talk. By adopting this incarnational model of dialogue, “the Word is made flesh” as the people make a difference in their everyday situations; “despite their differences” they are able to communicate “about the things that matter on a day-to-today basis” and in so doing, “they communicate what is central to their world view” (Hensman 1999: 334).

More and more, it has become important for us to dialogue with our fellow Christians even as we seek to be in dialogue with those of other faiths. And for us Catholics, we need to have such type of dialogue among the members of the Basic Ecclesial communities themselves, both those who are pro- or anti-IRD. In a recent conversation with Fr. Bert Layson OMI, the parish priest of Pikit in the Archdiocese of Cotabato where IRD has been sustained for close to a decade already, he lamented the fact that the ones who can have such negative impact on promoting mutuality and harmony among Muslims and Christians are the members of Base Ecclesial communities (BECs) themselves. This requires a more creative way of forming the BEC members in such a manner that they would embrace the IRD vision.

Even as there seems to be an upsurge of interest in interfaith dialogue, the fact of the matter is that those engaged in facilitating, sustaining and administering IRD remains a small number of church people. And the number of those engaged full-time in this pastoral ministry is not increasing rapidly. In a recent study I made in Mindanao as to the number of religious men and women engaged in IRD (involving both Muslims and Lumads), the number was only about (*) 30 involving 14 religious congregations including the OMI, OFM, MJ, CMF, PIME, CSSC, SSC, OND, FMM, RSM, MA, DC, OP and RGS. Among the dioceses in Mindanao, only those of Jolo, Zamboanga, Marawi, Cotabato, Iligan, Kidapawan, Marbel, Butuan, Ozamis, and Isabela have church people doing IRD.

It is a difficult ministry to be engaged in. The terrain of one’s apostolate is rough, dangerous and prone to violence. One has to be ready to operate without the benefit of comfort zones, back-up institutions and availability of expertise. There are only a few existing successful paradigms that one could just adapt into a new setting; one has to evolve a model that works. There are no long-term successes, only short-term accomplishments that could easily be irrelevant within a short moment. And one has to grapple with the imminent prospect of being caught in the crossfire as one stands in harm’s way practically all the time. This is the only pastoral ministry today that has yielded a number of martyrs from Bishop Ben de Jesus to Fr. Salvatorre Carzedda PIME, from Fr. Rufus Halley CSSC to Fr. Rhoel Gallardo CMF.

For this reason, it is very important to empower those who are interested to begin and/or sustain their engagement in interfaith dialogue. A spirituality in IRD is therefore very necessary and timely. For this reason there is need to articulate what this spirituality is all about.


Reading through the literature that I collected before writing this paper yielded a number of important insights.

There is an expanding literature on dealing with the spirituality of the various religious traditions from the Christian perspective. Vineeth underwent a search into the Hindu approach to spirituality within the backdrop of “realizational knowledge” largely based on the Upanishads, “the ancient Sanskrit text belonging to the Vedic literature” (Vineeth 2003: 64). This spirituality has an etymological base, as God and the human being are both referred to by the same word Atman, meaning the self. Self “is the being in whom awareness is centered in consciousness” while God “is the supreme Self whose all-pervading awareness is centered in supreme consciousness, which makes him also supremely personal”; in a unique manner this “supreme Self dwells within the human self” and as “God is the ultimate Self, the Atman within us and this Self is to be experienced and realized” (Ibid: 63). For Vineeth, this spirituality should bring us back to the experience of the “ancient Christians” who “believed that every Christian is another Christ”; this dictum was “a clear clue… that their understanding of Christ was more realizational than rational” (Ibid: 73).

Mercado sought a communion with Islamic spirituality. He needed to retrieve the common spirituality ground of the three Semitic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – which was the desert. This setting gave birth to the spirituality of the Desert Fathers which – given its harsh realities – was grounded in asceticism; in such an “environment, the sole reliance is on God” (Mercado 2003: 58-59). This spirituality recognized that the invitation was initiated by God and one’s journey began in God. One, however, needed a guide to be able to discern God’s call. Then the journey begins through “the path that leads to Life” which requires a “state of purity” which is similar to the biblical call in Mt 5:8 – Blessed are the pure of heart, they shall see God. (Ibid: 60). In the Qur’an, one encounters this sense of true piety in Sura 2:172 – “to believe in God and the Last Day, the angels, the book and the prophets, to give of one’s substance, however cherished to kinsmen and orphans, the needy, the traveler, beggars, and to ransom the slave to perform the prayer, to pay the alms”. This is why it is imperative for Christians engaged in IRD to discover the liberative elements in contemporary Islam (EATWOT Consultation on Religion and Liberation, New Delhi, l987).

Mananzan did a research study on women and religion and in her study she came up with the different elements of an inter-religious spirituality to include the following: it is integral in the sense of being able to transcend “the dichotomies and dualisms such as matter and spirit, sacred and profane, contemplation and action”; it is life-affirming because it is a “celebration of life” filled with “awe and gratitude at the wonder of one’s being and the beauty and the grandeur of the universe”; it is contemplative as its “deepest insight is that God is not only everywhere but is primarily within one’s own heart”; it is prophetic because “it announces the good news and the bad news” and has a “passion for justice and opposes injustice whenever it rears its ugly head”; it is compassionate with a “sense of oneness with all beings” and with “a passionate empathy”; it lives in the present “without denying one’s past and making reasonable provision for the future”; and it is “committed and carefree” (Mananzan 2004: 252-255).

Cragg highlights the element of patience as he calls on our needs for patience: “patience with our partners in the Christian fellowship; patience with monumental misunderstanding that must somehow be removed; patience with the massive external deterrents; patience with inward spiritual unlikeness; patience with ourselves and our proneness to hasty ways and incomplete devotion; the patience of hope and resolve.” (Cragg 1992: 325). He also exhorts us to embrace a spirituality that allows us to actually see many things in Muslim society that are “compatible with … Christian influence and can be served by it” to include “hospitality, cleanliness, moderation, simplicity, discipline, dignity, family affection, sensitivity to the poor and many other traits that characterize Muslim attitudes at their best”. This insight develops only if there is patience in dealing with them from the perspective of understanding the “Christian liability to one’s neighbor” (Ibid 198). He underlines this call to a human neighborhood as it should be sustained in an “open practice… on the ground here and now” in order to neutralize the “not so human neighborhood there and then in the past” (Ibid: 207).

Dupuis’ brings in the element of hope in a spirituality of IRD. He claims that in the process of dialogue where the partners engage in questioning one another while providing answers, explanations and information, the Christians need to give “an account of the hope that is in them” (1 Peter 3: 15). Witnessing to their faith, they “will hope and desire to share with others their joy in knowing and following Jesus Christ, even as the “followers of other religions are animated by a similar desire to share their own faith” (Dupuis 1997: 368). For Dupuis it is imperative that a dialogue partner must not “on the pretext of honesty in the dialogue, bracket one’s faith… even temporarily, against the expectation… of eventually rediscovering the truth of that faith through the dialogue itself” as it is important for dialogue partners “to enter upon it and commit themselves to it in the integrity of their faith”. This is so because “the basis of an authentic religious life is a faith that endows that life with its specific character and proper identity”… as it is not “a commodity that can be parceled out or exchanged; it is a gift received from God, of which one may not lightly dispose”. (Ibid: 378). Indeed, those who are engaged in IRD enter into a dialogue between equals in the context of their difference. However, “if dialogue supposes the integrity of personal faith, it also requires openness to the faith of the other in its difference”; this involves “the spiritual technique consisting of ‘passing over” (meaning:

“encountering both the other and the religious experience which that other bears within”) and returning’” (Ibid: 380).

Engaging in IRD with those of the Shamanist or primal religious tradition, one enters into a spirituality that embraces “the world (that is) alive with psychic power” (McDonagh and Busch l986: 87). This spirituality enables us “to see the finger of God in the natural world and to realize that the primary revelation of God on which all subsequent revelations – historical and verbal – depend, is in the natural world”. One can refer to a “book of the Cosmos” which can be considered a “common heritage of all humankind and thus can provide the basis for fruitful religious dialogue and action to preserve the natural world so that this religious experience is not lost for future generations” (Ibid: 89). Like the desert with its foreboding landscape, the wilderness and forests provide “uncontrolled, untamed places” needed by “the human spirit in its search for the ultimate mystery of life” so that it does not “become intoxicated with its own power and is continually called to reach beyond itself” (Ibid).

In dealing with primordial spirituality, Waaijman deals with the indigenous and secular spirituality of Israel, native-American spirituality and African spirituality. He identifies five interlocking lines to connect these: a deep personal relationship of extended families with the divine reality as experienced and mediated through stories, rituals and the like; the goodness of life - being a gift of the Creator - is the site where the divine-human relationship is lived; the community itself is able to develop the discernment processes that help them see the contrast between ways of life and death, the path of life and destiny and the gap between superficial and deeper knowledge; the community is very much part of creation along with the rest of nature that make up the entire cosmos which is experienced as divine; and that the community embraces both the living and dead (2004: 99).

Tinker provides his own reflections on the spirituality of the aboriginal or indigenous peoples of North America or the Native Americans. For him, their “spirituality, values, social and political structures, even ethics are rooted not in some temporal notion of history but in spatiality”; thus, “without understanding the spatiality of Native American existence, one cannot understand Native American spiritual traditions” (1992: 29-30). This spirituality “is deeply rooted in land”; it is manifested in nearly all aspects of their existence, in “ceremonial structures, symbols, architecture and symbolic parameters of a tribe’s universe” (Ibid: 32). As each individual “recognizes herself or himself as a combination of qualities that reflect both sky and earth, spirit and matter, peace and war, male and female” while struggling “individually and collectively to hold these qualities in balance with each other”, the “fundamental symbol of Indian existence is the circle, a polyvalent symbol signifying the family, the clan, the tribe, and eventually, all of creation.” (Ibid: 33). For Tinker it is important for the Native Americans to “live spiritually every day and every moment – in balance within ourselves and with the people around us; in harmony with our tribal communities and their aspirations; and in balance with all our relations in this world, including our nonhuman relations – the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, the winged, and all the living-moving-things, from rocks and trees to mountains and fish” (2004: 28).

As a spirituality of IRD, Tudtud proposes “a spirituality of the Kingdom” or the “spirituality of total surrender” (Ziselsberger l990: 48). It is a spirituality of the “here and now” as Christians are challenged to “being faithful to the call of the moment”, because the “kingdom of God is a decision to be faithful NOW, not in the future”. It is through the spirituality of the here and now that those in small Christian communities can show that “the Church is an instrument for the actualization of the Kingdom” through the process of “self-emptying or kenosis” with the aim of discarding “their prejudices towards the Muslims and non-Christians, as well as towards Christians of other denominations.” (Ibid: 50).

It is also a spirituality of the “setting-out” towards a horizon and a vision owing to a “thirst for growth and perfection” and a “search for goodness, beauty and truth”. In involves a process of “becoming” as well as leaving behind “inhuman living conditions.” This requires discovering “the face of God” in the “marginalized” as well as adopting a style of life consistent to this vision. It is also a spirituality of perseverance, of “hanging”. If it is a life that is faithful “to the here and now and of a constant setting out to new horizons” it is strenuous and demanding and could only be sustained through perseverance that comes with “deep spirituality and even asceticism”. Tudtud believes that in one’s life-long conviction one should not expect to see any result in one’s dialogue efforts; one is committed because of a conviction that this “fundamental attitude of Christian life makes all the difference”. He posits that “if you believe in what you are doing, you’ll do it because you believe in it, not because you are expecting results… even to the point of death” (Ibid: 53).

In a study I just recently finished on the spirituality that empowers Mindanawon religious engaged in pastoral ministries such as IRD, solidarity work with indigenous peoples and JPIC, some of the elements constituting their practice of spirituality include the following: it emerges from concrete lived experiences of being with the poor, demands a commitment to service and dialogue among the poorest of the poor, flows from creation and the lifeworld of indigenous peoples, deepened by a prayer life, experiencing God’s presence among the peoples of various cultures and faith and in creation and intimately encountering God in mystical moments.19


As I end this talk, I must humbly acknowledge that my own practice of spirituality in interfaith dialogue is really still that of a child. I may be advanced in chronological age, but my lived experience in which is embedded this practice of spirituality is but a drop in the proverbial ocean. Still, I thank God for the invitation to follow this path and to embark on this spiritual sojourn. I am fortunate that I was born and grow up in a place like Mindanao and where I continue to be situated in terms of my vocation and mission.

I have actually seen with my own eyes the majesty of creation from the very top of Mt. Apo. I have swam in Mindanao’s lakes from Lake Lanao to Lake Sebu, took in the sun on the beaches of Samal to Camiguin Islands, flowed with the currents of Bankerohan and Pulangi Rivers, penetrated the tunnel caves of Sultan Kudarat, walked the deep forests of Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sur and watched migratory birds fly across the Mindanao sky.

Since my college days, I have taken to the streets to demand from the State the services it should render the citizenry. I have walked with landless peasants seeking a title to the land they tilled; marched with workers demanding their just wages and the urban poor to resist ejection from the small space they occupy in the cities. I joined ordinary folks barricading the streets to put an end to the destructive logging of remaining forests. I have stood behind the indigenous peoples as they demanded control and ownership over their ancestral domain and as they sought to take advantage of the IPRA law. I have stood side by side with the Moro bakwits as well as the Women in White in Davao City demanding an end to the war in Mindanao. At one juncture, owing to this solidarity engagements, I paid my dues spending almost two years of detention as a political prisoner.

I have had glimpses of God’s presence in all these wanderings across creation and the poor’s struggles. Even more so, this divine manifestation entered my realm of consciousness as I joined the Mindanawons as they invoked Dios, Allah, Nemula, Magbabaya, Manama, Apo Sandawa and all the others names that God is called across this island. Attending all sort or rituals, ceremonies and liturgical celebrations – in mosques, Buddhist shrines, Protestant chapels, around a tambara,20 in Catholic cathedrals, cemeteries, under ancient trees in the forests, people’s homes and wherever people gather to commune with the sacred – have been occasions to collectively embrace God’s grace. In these gatherings, there is as much interiorizing as well as exteriorizing with chanting and dancing, eating and drinking, laughing and weeping. Life’s passages are remembered fondly, faced squarely and celebrated exuberantly precisely because here the divine and human encounter each other intimately. These have also been the occasions where I deepened relationships with family, friends, confreres, colleagues and co-sojourners as bonding is enriched, as a sense of community is deepened. Truly, these are privileged moments of actually seeing the possibility of God’s reign unfolding in the magic of the moment.

Thus, my own practice of spirituality integrates my engagement in interfaith dialogue. This spirituality could possibly be summarized in terms of the following statements:

My own experience of a “conscious striving to integrate my life toward the ultimate value I have perceived” flows from creation as I continue to experience divine presence – God’s own face, breath and warmth – in everything that constitutes Mother Nature.

The path that leads my journey to “a beginning experience of self-transcendence” is spatially grounded. Located firmly on land (lupa, yuta, tana) – embodying my ancestry, connecting me to those whose remains sustains its enrichment and providing a terrain that impacts my aesthetics – my spirit soars from this base.

My spirit is further enriched by a sense of mutuality and inter-dependency with human beings with whom I share a sense of space and the consequences of history. I seek them out in the spirit of good neighborliness as our humanity is affirmed as we show compassion for one another as well as seek to serve each other.

Situated within a reality of societal asymmetry, inequality and the poor’s inaccessibility to resources required for the fullness of life, I embrace a spirituality that demands a “setting-out” from such marginalization. I seek an option that demands of me to be with them at the margins and to follow a lifestyle congruent with a desire to witness to this solidarity.

Encountering the rich tapestry of a society constituted by a plurality of cultures, I embrace the myriad expressions of the face of the human family painted with bright colors. It is a spirituality that delights in the wonders of people’s cultural constructions in their languages and communicative skills, music and architecture, rites and governance systems and manner of responding to their needs. It makes no judgment of the differences but rather rejoices at convergences.

It does acknowledge the realm of difference but not in a manner that reinforces ethnocentrism by alienating the other. Instead, grounded in the richness of one’s own cultural-ethnic identity and faith tradition, one desires to dialogue to share one’s faith while being utterly open to listening to the dialogue partners to share theirs and in the process mutually experiencing the “passing over” or the encounter of both “the other and the religious experience which that other bears within”.

It is, indeed, the spirituality of the “here and now”; it captures the magic of the moment, it is embedded in the everyday reality.

It acknowledges the difficulties and frustrations owing to the complexities involved in interfaith dialogue. It demands a lifetime’s commitment; and even if one persists through a lifetime, one may not be blessed with immediate results. Nothing could be accomplished despite all the time, energy and resources poured into the efforts. It is thus, a spirituality of patience and perseverance. In this spirituality of “hanging”, hope is imperative.

The hope comes with a deepening realization that one’s engagement in IRD comes as an invitation from God. One is called to follow the path towards this vision and is, then, sent on a mission to preach the Reign of God that brings humility, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and community. Following the biblical metaphors, it is a road less traveled, it is a trail with thorns, it is path that could lead to Calvary.

It is a spirituality that brings one to a desert experience where one faces untamed places characterized by harsh realities. Here “the human spirit encounters the mystery of life” which brings us down to our knees as we realize there is no one else we could rely on to survive but God.

I recall such moments like my experiences in the bartolina right after my abduction by the military during the martial rule, in a boat that traveled across the Mindanao Sea at the height of a major typhoon, in a spot in the mountains of Malindang when the NPAs engaged the military in armed encounters, in a hospital where my mother was dying of cancer and the many “dark nights of my soul as I grappled with my life’s meaning. Such moments provide the push to dig from one’s wells. These as well as quieter moments provide spaces for contemplation. Coupled with modest attempts at asceticism, one is graced with the silence that feeds the soul. And if it is within the realm of God’s grace, a mystical experience could not be far behind.


It is very clear that this paper is enriched by the spirit of my mentor and friend, Bishop Tudtud. I end by paying him a tribute as I include a meditation that he has left for us to ponder upon:

“to offer an open hand

when there is no one

to grasp it

to wait with increasing longing

when no advent is promised

to sing out what lies deepest

when no ear is in tune

to bear one’s core

when no gentle touch unfolds

to sail into the horizon

without an expected haven

nor assurance of return

to carve an ever deepening space within

for the other to enter

and be at home

to leave that gap open

for the other

to stay or depart

to nourish one’s own wounds fresh

even when the other’s presence

is felt as a soothing balm

to exult when needed and appreciated

without lazing in the glory

of that blissful grace

to be nothing for the beloved

so that the beloved can be all”21


July 30, 2005

Launching of the Redemptorists’ Centenary

In the Philippines



1 Talk given at the Conference sponsored by the Center for Spirituality – Manila, August 1, 2005

2 These are concepts I appropriate from Habermas and Bourdieu.(* Insert the definistions of the terms later….)

3 Tribal Filipinos became the English term to refer to the Lumads of Mindanao in the l970s. Earlier they were referred to by the State as cultural minorities. Later, in the l990s, the name Tribal Filipinos gave way to the Indigenous Peoples, following the popular name adapted from the United Nations.

4 There is a rich literature that has already arisen in terms of this actual pastoral experience in Mindanao-Sulu. Refer to the Bibliography.

5 See Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud, Dialogue of Life and Faith, (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1988).

6 Like the Ad Gentes Divinitus or the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity. There was also the encyclical of Pope Paul VI in l964, the Ecclesiam Suam.

7 Karl M. Gaspar CSsR, “Mystic-Wanderes in the Land of Perpetual Departures”, unpublished manuscript with the Center of Spirituality-Manila, 2005.

8 These were first mentioned in the l984 document of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and cited in Dialogue and Proclamation, Reflections and Orientations on IRD and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, (CBCP and Commission for IRD-CIRD, Pentecost 1991), p. 16.

9 See Final Document, Fifth Formation Institute for Interreligious Affairs or FIRA V: Intereligious Dialogue in Religious Education, held at the Christian Guest House, Bangkok, Thailand, 23-29 May 2004, p. 2. See also the Consultation Statement of the 12th Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference and the Episcopal Comissions on Inter-religious dialogue and on Ecumenical Affairs, 14-16 April 2004, Cursillo House, Davao City.

10 Ibid.

11 J. Mark Hensman, “Beyond Talk: The Dialogue of Life as the Locus of Non-Verbal Interelgious Dialogue”, East Asian Pastoral Review, Vol. 36, No. 3, p. 323.

12 See Ibid; EATWOT Indonesia, Life Sustaining Spirituality: Learning from Indonesian Moslem and Christian Peasants, in Voices of the Third World, Volume XXVI, No. l (June 2003); and Karl M. Gaspar et al, Mapagpakamalinawon. See also the experiences in the parish of Pikit with Fr. Bert Layson OMI.

13 Nostra Aetate, no. 2.

14 For a good article on this phenomenon, see William Dalrymple, “The demonizing of Islam,” The Tablet, 11 September 2004, p. 6-7.

15 See R. Scott Appleby, “The New Christian ‘Fundamentalists’” and Thomas Michel S.J., “Roots of Muslim Revival in Asia,” both in Mindev, 1995 issue.

16 CBCI Commission for Dialogue and Ecumenism, Guidelines for Inter-Religious Dialogue, CBCI Centre, New Delhi, l989, no. 57.

17 Ibid.

18 See a good case study on how language figures prominently in the dialogue process, namely, Edgar Javier SVD, “Some Thoughts on Formation for Dialogue with Cultures: The Pacific – A Case Study,” in Religious Life Asia, July-September 2004.

19 Gaspar, Mystic-Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures, Chapter VI.

20 An altar-like structure, usually made of bamboo, that serves as some kind of a table on which are placed ritual materials as eggs, betel nuts, coins and others. It is common among indigenous peoples like the Bagobo and Manobo.

21Ziselsberger, Inter-Religious Dialogue – A Fundamental Attitude of Christian Life, p. 54-55.


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