For 21 years now the Bishops-Ulama Conference, which I co-founded in 1996 with the late Dr. Mahid Mutilan, has been engaged and still is, in Inter-faith Dialogue. Our members, the 24 Catholic bishops, 24 Muslim Ulama and 18 Protestant bishops & pastors, are often considered as representing the Catholic, Muslim and Protestant population in Mindanao.
The word “representing” is not very clear to many people. Are we really appointed representatives of our respective sector? No, we are not. Our people did not literally appoint us to speak and act on their behalf in the area of dialogue with other religions. Most of them do not know what interfaith dialogue is. They did not meet as a sector, discussed dialogue and agreed to appoint us.
But this should really have been done be in the first place. Actually the idea that had been mentioned or referred to more or less expressly in many discussions on Vatican II of the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC). And we do not know whether the Ulama League of the Philippines under Dr. Mutilan did the same nor did Bishop Hilario Gomez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
We simply presumed. It was a general presumption that every Mindanawon Catholic, Muslim and Protestant would want peace through dialogue in all levels of our respective sector or community. We still continue to do this but there is a problem.
Our respective sectors are unfortunately divided on the idea and manner of peacemaking through interfaith dialogue. So we decided to shift gear, so to say. Temporarily, we have to engage our respective sector in Intra-faith dialogue. We have to know who we are as believers and followers of a faith tradition. It is only when we know and understand ourselves as a faith community that we, through interfaith dialogue, can understand others as they understand themselves.
So, Intra-faith Dialogue is now the main thrust of the Bishops-Ulama Conference.