Columban parish hosts interfaith forum

The Our Lady of Remedies Parish hosted an interfaith forum on “Laudato Si and the Interfaith Climate Change” last June 11, 2016 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the 3rd Floor of the Remedios Jubilee Mission Center (RJMC) as a kick-off activity of the parish’s Laudato Si Week celebration and to support the Sacred Earth Sacred Trust celebrations on June 12.

This is the first inter-faith gathering in the Parish and the event was made even more significant by the presence and active participation of the heads of the various religions.

The opening prayer was led by Malate Church Choir singing “St. Francis Prayer Hymn.” Fr. Leo Distor, the Our Lady of Remedies parish priest welcomed everyone to the forum. A clip on the Sacred Earth -Sacred Trust global campaign was shown to the group. Fr. John Leydon, a co-convenor of the Global Catholic Climate Movement presented an input on Laudato Si and the Interfaith Climate Change Movement. He then introduced the example set by one small country – Bhutan through a video clip of Bhutan’s prime minister presenting the efforts of the country to combat climate change. A special intermission number was given by some representatives of the parish youth ministry, after which the representatives of various faiths and religions were given the opportunity to respond and present their faith beliefs regarding environmental conservation and the climate change.

The Interfaith Climate Change Statement was presented to the group and in solidarity with the global movement, the faith leaders adopted and signed the same before the forum ended. A part of the statement includes the following:

“Caring for the Earth is our shared responsibility. Each one of us has a “moral responsibility to act,”as so powerfully stated by the Pope’s Encyclical and in the climate change statements by Buddhist,Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and other faith leaders. The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk. The challenges ahead require honesty and courage and we all must take action to reduce emissions.”

The highlight of the forum was the presentation of the statement of the different faith leaders concerning the care of the earth and climate change. The leaders expressed their concern and desire to work together to address the plight of the Earth. They also shared their basic understanding and faith traditions concerning the care for the Earth. Some of them spoke about their experiences in terms of projects and programs already undertaken to address these issues. Excerpts of their statements are available in this report.

Some also recommended that follow-up activities should be done like a national gathering of leaders for a forum on climate change and possible hands-on and practical projects. Fr. Kurt Pala thanked all the guests who responded to the invitation and expressed his hope that the forum is only a beginning of a fruitful relationship to work together as a family to address climate change and protect the Earth, our common home. A song of a prayer of Pope Francis was shown to close the program.

After the forum, the participants continued to share their stories and experiences over some refreshments of Indian sweets, Chinese dumplings, and Tausug rice cakes.

The faith and religious leaders present at the forum included: Msgr. Hernando Coronel, rector of the Minor Basilica of St. John the Baptist (Black Nazarene); Fr. Leo Distor, parish priest of the Our Lady of Remedies; Imam Ebrar Moxsir, president of the Imam Council of the Philippines (Islam); Dr. Potre Dirampatan-Diampuan, Senior Representative of the United Religions Initiative (Islam); Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani, co-founder of the Peacemakers’ Circle (Hinduism); Ven. Master Miao Jing, abbess of Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple (Buddhism); Mr. Alfredo Li, CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation – Philippines (Buddhism); Mr. Bonhao Rivas, Manobo tribe leader; and Holly Celeste, National Assembly of Baha’is in the Philippines.

The gathering was attended by about 60 Malate Parish volunteers and around 60 guests from different civic and religious organizations which included the following: Quiapo Church, Sta. Cruz Parish,, Khayrah Umma, Imman Council of the Philippines, Zentech Global, Habitat Humanity, Religious Discernment Group, Tzu Chi Foundation, Inc., Church People Workers Solidarity, Katribu, Columban Lay Missionaries, Great Work Movement, St. Scholastica JPIC, Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple, Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc., Silsilah Dialogue Movement, United Religions Initiative and the Al-Mufarrudin Masjid – Malate.

The faith traditions represented in the forum were Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Baha’ faith and Islam.

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