By NITZ ARANCON
CAGAYAN de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma over the weekend sought an end to smear campaigns against religious groups, journalists, human rights advocates and political opposition leaders even as he echoed calls for peace-building in Mindanao.
Ledesma made the call in a message the local Roman Catholic archdiocese released ahead of tomorrow’s Feast of St. Augustine, patron saint of this predominantly Catholic city.
The archbishop asked Cagayanons to celebrate the fiesta “with the spirit of youthful joy in the presence of a loving and merciful God who is ever by our side to heal us and strengthen us as we confront the challenges in our society today.”
Ledesma said that foremost among these challenges is peace-buildingamong the tri-people communities in Mindanao.
He cited a February joint statement in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, entitled “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” that declared “… the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”
Ledesma said the joint statement was addressed to Christian and Muslim communities around the world in the context of long-held prejudices, armed conflict, and terrorist attacks, to remind them that “faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved.”
He said the joint statement has been adopted by bishops, presidents of Roman Catholic schools and Muslim leaders in Davao in August in support of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm).
The archbishop said the need for a “continuing the horizontal dialogue among ordinary Christians, Muslims and Lumads in daily life situations” has been pointed out.
Ledesma said, “For us in the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, let this also be our standard in peace-building in conflict-ridden areas.”
He then added: “We can do away with the red tagging of certain church groups, journalists and human rights lawyers who advocate addressing the root causes of un-peace. We can also do away with the yellow tagging of some church officials and political opposition leaders by the filing of sedition charges without credible evidence.”
Religious groups and leaders here, mostly from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), journalists and at least one media group, and human rights lawyers and advocates have cried foul over moves to link them to the New People’s Army (NPA). They have brought the matter to the attention of Mayor Oscar Moreno and the city council, and asked the local government to give them protection.
A Roman Catholic group, the Rural Missionaries in the Philippines, has also been red tagged.
Meanwhile, Ledesmasaid another challenge “is the care of our common home, our planet Earth.”
He cited city hall for the passage of an ordinance for waste segregation, and the Jesuit-owned Xavier University for leading the way with its ban on single-use plastic containers.
Ledesma has been advocating the passage of a city ordinance on the payment of ecological services which, he said, would institutionalize the rehabilitation of watershed areas to protect the Cagayan River and other tributaries.
“On our part, we can exercise the judicious use of water as indeed the source of life for our community and all living beings,” said Ledesma.