By: Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J.
After the Zamboanga Standoff of Oct., 2013, Fr. Antonio Moreno, Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Mindanao, asked for shared communal discernment on our apostolic directions in Mindanao.
In response, Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) hosted “Mindanao Conversations,” in its Finster Hall Auditorium from the afternoon of Dec. 26 to noon of Dec. 28. To these conversations in discernment, twenty-five invited Jesuits engaged in Mindanao or in apostolates relevant to Mindanao came, as well as prominent Mindanao leaders from the Church, the Muslim and Lumad communities, government, the military and civil society.
Fr. Moreno thanked the participants for coming during the Christmas holidays and defined the goal of the Conversations: not debate, but an attempt together to look at major concerns in Mindanao. Ms. Carolyn Arguillas of Mindanews then presented a situationer on Mindanao. Fr. Karel San Juan, President of Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU) and chair of the Province Commission on Ministries, then presented a situationer on Jesuits currently in Mindanao and on Jesuits working for Mindanao. Thereafter, there was a array of Mindanao cultural dances by Davao’s Kaliwat Dancers – which all enjoyed.
The four foci of discernment were:
- Jesuits in the pursuit of peace in Mindanao;
- Jesuits in Support of Wealth Creation and its Equitable Distribution in Mindanao;
- Jesuits and the Mindanao Environment; and
- Jesuits Promoting Spirituality and Leadership in Mindanao.
For each of these foci, there was a small-circle panel discussion after each panelist delivered brief opening statements. The panelists then first engaged themselves in moderated conversation, before the conversation was opened to all. At the end of each discussion, Fr. Provincial Moreno responded to all.
1. The panelists for “Jesuits in the pursuit of peace in Mindanao” (the longest discussion) were:
Datu Mussolini Lidasan, of the ADDU Al Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities and Dialogue
Fr. Albert Alejo of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University
Atty. Johaira Wahab of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission
Atty. Randolph Parcasio of the MNLF Peace Panel
Ms. Mucha Shim Quiling of the Samah Dilaot (Badjaos)
Dr. Roque Yusuf Morales of the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos
Br. Karl Gaspar, CSsR, St. Alfonsus Thological and Mission Institute.
Maj. Gen. Natalio Encarma, Department of National Defense
Some of the issues discussed: Filipino Muslim Identity. The Bangsamoro. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Unfulfilled Terms of past GRP-MNLF Agreements. The alleged Unacceptable Status Quo. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the current Peace Process. Muslim (Dis)Unity: “Where do we want to go?” The Lumads (Sama Dilaut) – Where do they fit in the process? Building Peace from the Grassroots (and not just from the negotiating tables). The Role of Muslim Informal Leaders (Ulamas, Panditas) in the peace process. The urgent need for Intra-Faith Dialogue. Beyond issues of religion, the power of private power blocks. The Military as Warriors or “Peace Warriors”, the Challenge of Communicating Peace.
2. The Panelists for “Jesuits in Support of Wealth Creation and its Equitable Distribution in Mindanao” were:
Fr. Roberto Yap, Xavier University
Ms. Genita Eko, T’Boli Tribe. Founder, Lake Sebu Women’s Weavers Assn.
Ms. Jainab Abdulmajid of Gawad Kalinga
Ms. Nene Guevarra of Synergeia
Prof. Germelino Bautista of Ateneo de Manila University
Some of the issues discussed: Jobs. Human Capital. Trade-offs such as Economy vs. Environment, Education. Role of Small Farmers. Need to retool NGOs. Importance of Basic Education and Governance. Fruitful role of organized IP groups in wealth creation. Housing as wealth and a context for wealth creation. Technical tools for measuring wealth increase or decrease in communities. Wealth creation in fact not solving the poverty in Mindanao. Alienation of the economy from the peoples of Mindanao. The “economy that excludes.” The problem with genetically modified organisms. The problem with large-scale monocrop farming like palm-oil. Upland farmers alienated from “the market.” Upland farmers unjustly controlled. Corruption “that kills”, Militarization. The need to evaluate Asean 2015 as an economic system as it shall impact on the people. Poverty and corruption. At bottom, in Mindanao do we really help the poor?
3. The panelists for “Jesuits and the Mindanao Environment” were:
Fr. Pedro Walpole, Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change
Fr. Joy Peliño, Social Action Center of the Diuocese of Marbel
Mr. Jaybee Garganera of the Alyansa Tigil Mina
Fr. Daniel McNamara of the Ateneo de Davao University
Ms. Ma. Antonia Loyzaga of the Manila Observatory
Dr. Leah Vidal of the Ateneo Institute of Anthropology
Fr. Mars Tan, S.J., of Xavier University
Some of the issues discussed: the Minda2020 Peace Development Framework that is still a work in progress. Economy vs. environment. Conflicts due to unjust land use. The ongoing creation of an economy-driven lifestyle vs. Philippine culture. The role of the Church in the defense of the environment, in the defense of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) vs. large-scale mining (Tampakan). The imbalance of power even among IPs. Problematic mining laws (RA 7942) and executive orders (EO 79). The role of academe in disaster risk reduction and vs. environmental destruction or depletion. (Anticipating the next topic), The importance of spirituality in a sustained engagement for justice in Mindanao.
4. Finally, the panelists for “Jesuits Promoting Spirituality and Leadership in Mindanao” were:
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
Fr. Karel San Juan of ADZU
Fr. Wilfredo Samson of ADZU
Fr. Celerino Reyes of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Atty. Laisa Alamia Masuhud, Executive Secretary of the Regional Office of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
Some of the issues discussed: The role of Ateneo alumni/ae as leaders in Mindanao. The link between spirituality (specifically the Sprititual Exercises of St. Ignatius [SpEX]) and leadership. The need for continuing formation of leaders. Appreciation of the fact that leaders “make or break” projects. The battle of images to inspire leaders. The gap between spirituality and social advocacy. The need for spiritual maturity, the formation of the youth, the strategic use of social media, the use of “the preference for the poor” to form leaders, to develop the capacity to discern, to repack spirituality for the youth, to form formators, to adapt the SpEx to Muslims. The failure to have developed leaders in our schools. The importance of spirituality and seven concerns of the CBCP as issues of leadership: good governance and corruption, care for the environment and climate change, rural poverty, rural women, rural youth, urban poverty and housing, population and reproductive health, peace building and reconciliation, and church renewal.
The discussions which followed the panel discussion were well participated in. Fr. Ogie Cabayao consistently represented the view of Jesuits in parish ministries in Mindanao. While the conversations were very rich, it has also been pointed out that it failed to discuss difficult issues pertinent to the NPA.
Abp. Tony Ledesma presided over the closing Eucharistic Celebration at the end of the Mindanao Conversations.
Detailed documentation is still being prepared. A documentary video is also in the making.
Towards the end of the Mindanao Conversations, the staff formulated and the participants approved the following “Action Points” as indicative of the collective mind of the participants:
- Create values-based leadership formation programs for Christian, Muslims and Indigenous peoples that provide probing critical analyses of the complex issues of peace, using inclusive, integrative, and exploratory multidisciplinary approaches.
- Form leaders both in the church and society who possess good moral conscience, a healthy understanding of the exercise of Christian power that puts the common good over and above personal interests, and who are responsible and accountable for decisions made on behalf of the community.
- Develop a leadership institute for indigeneous peoples that provides appropriate formation of tribal leaders, empowering them to better address socio-cultural and political issues affecting their respective communities, and capacitating them with technical know-how in dealing with complex issues such as ancestral domain, environmental protection, cultural preservation, among others.
- That Jesuit universities and institutions act as convenors and consensus builders in facilitating and providing more avenues for inclusive discussion, dialogue, collaboration, and consultation on crucial issues such as peace, environment, wealth creation and equitable distribution, spirituality, leadership, social justice and the common good among various stakeholders that include both the main actors and informal leaders.
- Develop and explore further an appropriate intra-faith framework in dialoguing for peace while strengthening existing programs related to it to complement and supplement current inter-faith initiatives.
- Rethink old or create new paradigms in developing initiatives, program and projects that provide for the creation of and access to wealth as a means of addressing poverty and of empowering communities, especially those at the margins.
- Develop further studies and research on the market that provide the basis for the creation of a new economic system anchored on the principles of accountability, transparency, good governance, social justice, environmental responsibility, and the ultimate aspiration for the common good.
- Create new, ingenious ways in appropriating and integrating Ignatian Spirituality that embrace various aspects and ways of life – or as applied in different religious contexts – as a key component not only in strengthening social formation but also in developing relevant social engagements and advocacies.
- Provide greater institutional support for social movements and advocacies that actively lobby for the enactment of laws upholding social justice and the common good, as well as offer university support for local churches, communities and organizations that support such advocacies.
- Craft programs and initiatives geared toward cultural transformation and regeneration, providing opportunities for shifting of paradigms and value systems, and offering meaningful appreciation for positive Filipino traits.
[Fr. Joel Tabora delivered this report on the Mindanao Conversation along with its action points to the Philippine Jesuits’ Meeting of Superiors and Directors of Work on January 3, 2014.]