South Sudan's Challenge

South Sudan's Challenge
Healing & Reconciliation

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Extremism Shapes our Interreligious Relations and Dialogue


The second issue that now shapes our relationship is EXTREMISM in our religious traditions and communities. This has become a compelling urgency as war and new militant extremism confront nation states, faith-communities and all peoples of goodwill.  There are several slogans and names that try to capture the dangerous realities we live in.  There is the famous slogan, “Clash of Civilizations” that Prof. Samuel Huntington coined in the mid 1990’s.It is an attempt that describes the political, ethnic and religious conflicts that have intensified in the post-Cold War era. 

By whatever names they go by, they invoke the NAME of God as their rallying/battle cry in complex and many violent struggles and conflicts within that “Arc of Crisis”.

On the other hand, there is the UN initiative that speaks of Alliance of Civilizations where nations, communities and religions forge unity and partnership and new ethical norms to respond to the ills of the present and to prepare and equip the youth or the next generation for new world emerging.

From our own Mindanao experience, we have seen the ugly and violent and virulent face of fanaticism and extremism in the killing of Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, OMI – Bishop of the Vicariate of Jolo. His witness of peace and reconciliation and dialogue was a threat to then emerging Islamic Extremism and the fanatics murdered him in public and in broad daylight at the Jolo Plaza in front of his Cathedral in Jolo on February 4, 1997.

Following the martyrdom of Bishop Benjamin, another Benjamin fell victim to the virulent extremism in Sulu. Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI was shot at the back of the Cathedral with his driver on December 28, 2000. His driver survived, but Fr. Inocenio was killed instantly.

Like Bishop Benjamin, Fr. Benjamin was a Missionary to an island in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Sulu Sea – Cagayan de Mapun.  There he managed Notre Dame of Cagayan with passion and moving all resources to give quality high school education to the Jama Mapuns “physical marooned” in that remote island.

Then bullet struck again on January 15, 2008, this time in a remote island of Tabawan in the Municipality of South Ubian. Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI who spent his life in serving the poor people of Tabawan both in Notre Dame School and in the public schools was brutally martyred by ‘Extremists’ who came to his residence. Fr. Rey was yet another witness of faith, friendship, and service to the least fortunate. 

Other religious congregations have their own share of martyrs as well. The Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped the Claretian priest, Fr. Roel, with other co-workers in Basilan and they were killed brutally.  The same is true with the PIME Fathers with the martyrdom of Fr. Carzeda who was involved in interreligious dialogue in Zamboanga City. The Columbans have Fr. Rufus Halley who gave his all to the people of Malabang and Balabagan - learning the language and befriending all yet he ended up murdered.

And today, there is the raging battle (on the 46th day) of Marawi City in the Southern Philippines that has turned into a nightmare.  The extremists belonging to Dawla Islamiyya or Islamic State attacked and killed Christians and burnt Christian institutions and destroyed the Christian icons while shouting “Allahu Akbar”. 

They are holding Christian hostages – Fr. Teresito Suganob and his parishioners of the Prelature of Marawi and threaten to kill them all if the terrorists are not given “safe passage”.  While the extremists are a tiny minority, believers wishing to engage in interreligious dialogue need to draw the line between tolerance and intolerance; between exclusivism and inclusivism; between life and death; and between fellowship or EXTREMISM.

There, you have witnesses who paid dearly for what they believed in and what they stood for.  And the price was martyrdom! The witnesses stand tall and their blood albeit spilled continues to give inspiration and life to the people of the place. 

And as we reflect and discuss on interreligious dialogue and dialogue between and among peoples of living faiths and peoples of good will, we need to take a clear stance vis-a-vis EXTREMISM both violent and non violent, as well. Extremism in whatever form is a menace to humanity and the planet. Our stance on this issue shapes the relations and dialogue between and among religions and peoples of goodwill!

Jun Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya - Philippines
July 6, 2017
(A part of my presentation at Concilium 2017)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Black and White Pebbles


Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender.  The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer's beautiful daughter.  So he proposed a bargain.

He said he would forgo the farmer's debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal.  So the cunning money-lender suggested that they let providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag.  Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.

1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father's debt would be forgiven.

2) If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven.

3) If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer's field.  As they talked, the money-lender bent over to pick up two pebbles.  As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag.  He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine that you were standing in the field.  What would you have done if you were the girl?  If you had to advise her, what would you have told her?

Careful, analysis and would produce three possibilities:

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.

2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose
the money-lender as a cheat.

3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save
her father from his debt and imprisonment.

Take a moment to ponder over the story.  The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking.  The girl's dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking.  Think of the consequences if she chooses the above logical answers.

*What would you recommend to the Girl to do?*

(to be continued)

Did you get it…?

Well, here is what she did .....

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble.  Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

'Oh, how clumsy of me,' she said.  'But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.'

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one.  And since the money-lender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.


Most complex problems do have a solution.  It is only that we don't attempt to think.  Start and end your day with this thought provoking story and have a fruitful life.  Have a day filled with positive thoughts and sound decisions.

(Source: Anonymous)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Unity and Fellowship in Diversity

Unity and Fellowship in Diversity
By Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya – Philippines

Few years back (0ctober 13th, 2007 – which coincided with the end of Ramadan that year), 138 Muslim Scholars, Academics, Muftis, and Leaders from 43 nations representing the two major branches of the Islamic World (Sunni0 and Shi’a) and other smaller groups and sects wrote a letter to the Pope and other Christian Leaders (now known as “A Common Word’).  The title of the letter is NO accident. It is taken from a Sura (Chapter) of the Qur’an – Sura 3: 64 (Sura of the family of Imran) that states: “A Common Word between Us and You”.

The passage is a direct quotation from the prophet to the Christians when he sees that he cannot reach agreement with the Christians and the Qur’an. This is what the prophet said: “Come let us agree on at least one common ground: that we shall worship none but God and that we shall ascribe no partner unto him, and that none shall take other for lords beside God”.

The Letter has three major parts: the 1st is the Love of God in Islam and Love of God as the first and greatest commandment in the Gospel (al-injil); the 2nd is the Love of Neighbor, again, in Islam and in the Gospel; and 3rd is an invitation to come to “a common word between us and you”.

The Letter insistently stresses the unique devotion of the believers to one God.  The Love of God In the Islamic Tradition, God is the Lord (Rabb) of the worlds and he is All-Merciful (al-Rahmaan) and All-Compassion (al-Rahim).  And in the Gospel (al-injil): ‘God is Love’ (1John 4:8).  ‘We love, because God first loved us’ (1 John 4: 19).  Yes, our love of god springs from and is nourished by God’s love for us.  It is interesting to note that the Love of God is rarely used in the Qur’an but found abundantly in the Islamic mystical traditions (among the Sufi).  Usually the Muslims speak of ‘obedience to God’ or ‘adoration of God’.  

The other interesting point is the Love of Neighbor.  The Letter speaks that love of neighbor is the pinnacle of our duties toward our neighbors.  None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself’ the Prophet Muhammad said (pub). And in the New Testament, we similarly read: ‘whoever does not love the neighbor does not know God. (1 John 4: 8).  Thus speaking of the ‘Love of God’ and ‘Love of neighbor’ albeit with some nuances is a refreshing novelty in an official and public document with a broadening theological consensus (ijma).

Both Islam and Christianity have beautiful traditions of loving and forgiving enemies.  At the end of his life, Jesus Christ prayed for his enemies: ‘forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23: 34).  Similarly, the prophet Muhammad (pub) did the same when he was violently rejected and stoned by the people of Ta’if saying: ‘the most virtuous behavior is to engage those who sever relations, to give to those who withhold from you and to forgive those who wrong you’.  It is good to note that after the prophet was driven out of Ta’if, it was the Christian slave ‘Addas who went out to the prophet, brought him food, kissed him, and embrace him.

The Letter attempts to re-establish that relation that ought to exist between Christians and Muslims, especially in these dangerous times of extremism and radicalism that kill and persecute in the name of religion and god.  This is, in fact, clearly stated in the introduction by recalling that both Christians and Muslims constitute over 55% of the world’s population.  Without peace and justice between these two religions, there can be no sustainable and meaningful peace in the world. And when these two major religions come to a common word, peace and prosperity as well as care of the earth become more real and sustainable.

Another beautiful point in the letter is the acknowledgement and re-iteration of the Qur’anic passage that our religious diversities are destined/planned by God. “Had God willed, He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you. So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return and He will then inform ye of that wherein ye differ” (al-Ma’idah 5: 48).

This is truly a refreshing gust of wind in an age of extremism! The Letter invites all to come to a common word, that is, ‘to vie one with another in good works’ as a paradigm of our relationship. It points to the fact that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace and harmony despite their differences and moreover, God wants these differences!

Definitely, the Letter provides a new basis of the relationship between Muslims and Christians.  The letter, no doubt, invites all to pursue the common commitment and determination to establish peace among the believers and see beyond their differences the SIGN for those who know (for they are touched by God  - inna fi daalika la-aayaatin li-l-‘aalimina), that is, as the Mercy and Compassion of our Lord.

Editor’s Note:
1.     At present there are over 380 Muslim Scholars, Academics, Mufti and Leaders who have affixed their signatures to the Letter.
2.     All the Letter’s addressees: The Pope and All the other Christian Leaders of the pre-Chalcedonian Christianity and the Churches of Reformation including major Theological & Divinity Schools have positively responded to the Letter.
3.     There is a continuing Forum and Dialogue on the “Common Word”. The first one was in Europe, followed by USA, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia.
4.     In the Philippines, the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID Director Amina Rasul-Bernardo) and the Institute for Autonomy & Governance (IAG Senior Policy Adviser, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI) continue the discourses on the ‘Common Word’.
5.     There is a complete publication on the Common Word compiling all the activities and forum on the letter in One Volume on the occasion of its 5th anniversary in 2012.  Anyone interested can avail of an e-copy … you need only to google common word…

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Corpus et Sanguinis Chriti (A)

Readings: Deuteronomy 8: 2-3. 14-16; 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17;mJohn 6: 51-58

Selected Passage: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." (John 6: 51)

Meditation: The Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us of the price of redemption.  He broke his body and shed his blood that we may have life!  When we eat his body and drink his blood we share his life. And if we do share his life, we, too, are invited to break our body and shed blood for others that they may have life. See www.badaliyya,


1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step:  Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trinity Sunday

Short Reflection for the Pentecost Sunday (A)

Readings: Exodus 34: 4-6. 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13; John 3: 16-18

Selected Passage: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)

Meditation: We begin to understand the one Triune God through the contemplation of God as LOVE.  Fr. Cantalamessa in his homily for the Feast states that in every love there are always three realities or subjects: one who loves, one who is loved and the love that unites them.

Where God is understood as absolute power, there is no need for there to be more than one person, for power can be exercised quite well by one person; but if God is understood as absolute love, then it cannot be this way.  The life of the Trinity is a mystery of relation. This means that the divine persons do not “have” relations, but rather “are” relations.


1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step:  Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.