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12 NOVEMBER 2008
PGMA TELLS UNGA: RP CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM GAP NARROWING
NEW YORK--The historic divide between Christians and Muslims in the Philippines is "narrowing dramatically," President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on 12 November.
Speaking at the General Assembly meeting on Agenda Item 45: A Culture of Peace, President Arroyo revealed that the dramatic narrowing of the historic religious divide in the Philippines "is in no small part due to our focus on interfaith dialogue and a willingness to accept the sincerity of those who differ with us in faith."
"We must not mistake tolerance and understanding of other faiths and belief systems as a blank check for abuse. We will never accept violence cloaked in religion by anyone at anytime," the President pointed out.
"In the Philippines, the Bishop and Ulama Conference is our format for interfaith dialogue -- it is a movement of Catholic and Christian bishops and Muslim ulamas organized to promote mutual understanding of faiths and religions for peace," she told world leaders and delegates gathered at the meeting.
"We all want to see peace and prosperity in the Philippines. Through interfaith dialogue under the leadership of the Bishop and Ulama Conference; through global engagement with the largest possible international involvement, including the United Nations, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia and others in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Spain, Sweden and the European Union, the United States, Japan, Australia and other bilateral ODA partners; and through economic assistance at the community level, we are confident that peace will happen," the President added.
She said the Philippines chaired the first Summit on Interfaith Dialogue in the UN in 2005. At the regional level, the Philippines was one of the convenors of an ongoing series of Asia-Pacific interfaith dialogues that began in Indonesia in 2004. Subsequent dialogues were held in the Philippines in 2006, New Zealand in 2007 and Cambodia in 2008.
"Presently, we are preparing to host the Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development scheduled in May 2009," the President said, stressing that Philippine participation today in this initiative on culture of peace advances our relationship with Middle Eastern and Islamic nations (whose) support in carrying out our interfaith dialogues has been critical to our progress in promoting peace in southern Philippines.
"What we are doing together here today and tomorrow is every bit more powerful than bullets, military tanks and armaments to fight those who bring misery and violence to people at home or across the globe," she said.
"We must follow our faith and have faith in each other if we are to truly lift up the poor, transform war into peace and stamp down the intolerance and hatred wrought by a false reading of the divine message," the President added.
The Philippine chief executive -- whose administration has been into interfaith dialogue long before the phrase became a by-word in world diplomacy added, thus: "We maintain high hopes in interfaith dialogue as a means for building bridges to replace barriers between communities of different cultures and ethnicity."
"We are here today united by our faith and determined to bridge the valley that unnecessarily divides us, whether we live across the street, across rivers, or across oceans and continents. We can and must bridge the divide through the alliance of civilizations so that we can advance the common good of humanity."
"Let us embrace the power of dialogue here today and tomorrow for peace, development and human dignity," she urged world leaders as she called for the adoption of draft resolution No. A/63/L24 Revision One on the "Promotion of Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace" that was tabled jointly by
the Philippines and Pakistan and co-sponsored by about 60 states.###
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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