BOL a path to peace
The signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law by President Duterte is a significant event. The United Nations and other countries are happy about it, because the Philippines showed that a country can succeed in forging greater unity among its citizens of different cultures and belief systems.
It is remarkable that, in a predominantly Christian country (90-plus percent, of which over 80 percent are Catholics), such a law would be approved. Our Muslim brothers and sisters, while still seen by some in a negative light, are now embraced by the much larger Christian population.
Next year, 2019, we celebrate the 800th anniversary of a great historical event that can be seen as a precursor to peace efforts like the BOL. This is the encounter between a poor and humble Christian man, Francis of Assisi, and the then leader of Islam, Sultan Melek-El-Kamel, in Damietta, Egypt, in 1219.
While Christians were bent on killing Muslims, Francis and his small group wanted to reach out to them to show that killing was not the solution, and that no group of people should be considered an enemy. They preached that a deeper, stronger bond united all people—the fact that all were children of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Guided by these basic truths, Francis and his group opened their mission to the world—“missio ad gentes”—following the instructions of Jesus himself on his ascension.
With the signing of the BOL, we give testimony of our country’s vision of peace and universal brotherhood, not just in words, but through a concrete document. Yes, the law still has to be polished in some parts, and we are waiting to see how it will be executed to address the specific conditions and realities of the Muslim areas of our country. But we, the Catholic majority, have shown that we have become more open, more mature and more Christian.
As we await the celebration, in 2021, of the 500th anniversary of the coming of Christianity to our country, we have already started the “missio ad gentes” theme in one concrete way. Other countries that have similar political situations are looking at us, because if we can make the BOL work, they might also consider this option. We have opened the door, and we are leading the way. We must all work together to make the law work.
I have always believed President Duterte is the man our country is blessed by God to have, and with his signing of the BOL, we as one people are grateful. Seen in a wider perspective, he is a man of peace, a strong and legitimate candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. May the Lord give us peace.
Antonio Maria Rosales, OFM ([email protected]), just celebrated his 50th year in the priesthood. A former parish priest of Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Makati, he is now visiting professor of morals at the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City.