What is happening in Gaza is touching the heart of the world.  How we can afford to see so many people, especially children, killed in a war that is unjustified on both sides.   


A few days ago, a good friend of mine, a Muslim lady that I respect, told me:  “We have to do something to raise our voice”.  I have been reflecting what to do.  A rally?  A demonstration? A statement?  Yes, all these things can be done in solidarity.  But after this what more can we do?


Many times I have thought that we have “another Gaza” in our midst.  I refer, among the many, to the Abu Sayyaf presence in our midst.  My friend, Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, PIME, was one among the many victims in 1992 and from that time on we can not count the many other victims in various forms of violence.


On many occasions I have approached Muslim and Christian friends, most of them influential in society, some also Muslim religious leaders of Zamboanga, Basilan, Jolo and Tawi Tawi, where Silsilah started the Inter Faith Council of Leaders (IFCL), asking them what we can do to solve the “cancer of Abu Sayyaf” in our society.  The answers are many, but in the variety of answers I get the feeling that there are different actors who benefit from this situation and, very dangerously, they are supported and protected by those in different levels of society who gain advantages from this situation.


Some people tell me that among the Abu Sayyaf there are also people that I know. Well, how I wish I can find a way to approach one who can tell me:  “Father we can move together to face this problem”.  Yes, many share their concern and promise to do something, but at the end what emerges is FEAR and other interests to protect.


The situation in Gaza and our situation is very different, but what is disturbing is that on both sides religion is used to justify and motivate some form of violence. I am Christian and I strongly believe in my faith, but I also have many sincere friends among the Muslims and I respect and appreciate many things In Islam that can make our society better, if we work together for the common good.


What is also disturbing is that most of the Abu Sayyaf are young people who are convinced to join the group with promises and money. Information say that today we have also in our midst people who accept offerings and promises to divide Muslim believers and some have a specific mission to go against Christians like in Syria, Iraq and other places. Some of this groups have also their international connections.


So, what will happen to our beautiful land of Mindanao? I also consider this my land after thirty eight years of living here with the people, exploring all the ways to promote dialogue and peace, including my experience as negotiator in the forest of Zamboanga del Norte to help MNLF groups in the ‘70s to find peaceful solutions.  Silsilah is also part of this dream to help and to experience how Muslims and Christians can rediscover our common origin as brothers and sisters, created by the same God.  For this reason the Movement proposes a spirituality of life-in-dialogue and the Culture of Dialogue.


Some friends ask me if we will reach the point of violence like Gaza in Mindanao.  I don’t think so.  But some of the same roots of violence are here and there.  There are news that some groups in Mindanao, and others with international links which claim an “Islamic identity”, are moving to divide people. Why?


During the Ramadhan, and even now, I tried all the available occasions to meet Muslim leaders who are friends and all of them, in one way or the other, share the same opinion.  I remember that there was a time in history that Christians also fought one against the other.  Catholics against Protestants, etc.  Now we see something similar happening also among Muslim groups.


Every day I pray the “Harmony Prayer” that starts with the words” O Lord, I cry for peace…” my mind and heart go to Gaza, and the many Gazas of the world, including our own Gaza, especially in some areas of Mindanao, where people suffer and where the conflict between religions and groups is more visible and painful.  What is important is not to surrender to fear, to move in the spirit of love and forgiveness.  God knows how to answer to our “Cry for Peace”.


Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra is the founder of Silsilah Dialogue Movement.



Photo Finally, an app that brings up-to-date news and analysis on the Mindanao peace process right at your fingertips. IAG, Mindanao’s premier peace and good governance think tank, takes you to the center of the search towards meaningful and lasting solution to the conflict in southern Philippines. Immerse yourself in our rich resources to get the broadest and unbiased context of the peace process. Get unlimited access to expert views and analyses culled from IAG’s roundtables and pool of consultants. Be heard, interact with us. Let’s build a community of peace!