IAG Statement on Marawi Crisis and ML

Statement of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance on the
Marawi City Crisis and the Declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao

The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) condemns the reign of terror in Marawi City that destroys the shared values of all men and women of goodwill all over the world. Violent extremism has no place in Mindanao where people value respect for diversities, pluralism and multiculturalism as paths to sustainable peace. The violence in Marawi City is an assault against Islam as a religion of peace. The voice of reason and respect for the dignity of every human being as a shared value of the great religions of the world must prevail over few loud voices who threaten to destroy humanity and our way of life.

We call on government to act within the law to address the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism. It must move the Mindanao peace process forward as the platform for people of goodwill to make their voices for peace heard and to build institutions that can address the root causes of terror and violence. As well, the state of Martial Law in Mindanao must be so deliberately designed and enforced to be sensitive and not fuel the historical injustice deeply felt by the Moro people.

We call on religious leaders to have a unified stand and action against all forms of terrorism and extremism. Business and civil society leaders must voice and act out their condemnation of this global scourge that will condemn people and communities to poverty and despair.

Finally, this is our special call to our LGU partners and regional and local political leaders in the ARMM. Violence and extremism are not only a military and law enforcement issue. These are driven among others by weak and failed governance. Despite fiscal constraints, we call on our regional and local political leaders to seriously work towards making LGUs present, transparent, responsive and relevant to our communities.

May 24, 2017, Cotabato City.

Challenging my Peace Theory…

A peace theory that debunks all my peace premises…!

The latest issue of the Middle East Forum challenges the theory of grievance-based peace making that is by addressing legitimate grievances…

In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, President Trump declared unswerving American commitment to help Riyadh in “confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist and Islamic terror of all kinds.” A new coalition of American lawmakers believes he should make an equally important commitment to Israel.

Official U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has long been centered on a “grievance-based approach” to conflict resolution and counterterrorism. Addressing the stated grievances of Palestinian extremists, the reasoning goes, reduces their motivations for fighting and enables their leaders and those of Arab states to make peace. Thus the perennial goal of American diplomacy has been to pressure or coax the democratic State of Israel into making concessions to the authoritarian PLO-turned-Palestinian Authority (PA) in hopes that they will placate the Palestinian masses (most of whom, including 1.6 million in Hamas-ruled Gaza, do not live in disputed territory).

While the “land for peace” formula — pressuring Israel to hand over land to those it has defeated for the promise of peace to come — pleased Arab governments and career diplomats at the State Department, it was a disaster on the ground. Each new concession was seen by Palestinian leaders as signaling an Israeli weakness ripe for exploitation, stoking their fantasies of ultimate victory and thus prolonging the misery of the Palestinian people and everyone involved.

History shows that wars end definitively only when one side has no more hope at all of success.

History shows that wars end definitively only when one side has no more hope at all of success, as happened in Germany and Japan after World War II.

Of course, unconditional surrenders of the kind that took place on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay have been rare since the creation of the UN shortly thereafter.

Wars often linger on for years, even decades, as winning sides are dissuaded by international pressure from bringing conflicts to an end. (Source: The Middle East Forum)

What thinkest thou on this peace making that is based on the unconditional surrender of one party or the realization that their goal is beyond reach…?


“Follow Jesus as Mary…”

First Profession of 7 Marist Brothers – May 22, 2017

Brothers, you have chosen well the three readings – first from the Book of Jeremiah to remind you and all of us here that our call is from our God. We do NOT merit to be chosen and be sent… Like Jeremiah, believe that you have been chosen, formed you from our mothers’ wombs. The gift of the ministry of teaching is akin to the gift of prophecy – you are set over nations and kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant…

There are marks that the readings tell that should describe your ministry of teaching.. First is LOVE! John emphatically tells us that everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. And if we love one another God is in us.

In a similar vein, the gospel (John 15) gives us the parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. So long as we remain attach to the Vine… we live, grow and bear fruit in plenty – because God remain in us. For detach from the vine, the branches wither and die!

You are NOT slaves… but Jesus calls you friends; he has chosen you; and appointed you to teach in his name! Here I borrow the three formula used for the Office of the Lector which are also very appropriate for the ministry of teaching –


Last Friday, at the despedida dinner for Bro. Wency and for the 7 of you, I noticed a slogan at your Bulletin Board which I find very appropriate in the discharge of your call as MINISTERS of teaching – “Follow Jesus as Mary…”

Yes, we follow Jesus as Mary did…
• At the annunciation of the birth of the Lord, Mary trusted God and she said yes albeit all her fears;
• At his birth, Mary wrapped her child I swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger and without understanding she stored and treasured all in her heart;
• Similarly at the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, when Jesus was lost and found and told her about the hour and his Father’s business – she, trusting in God, treasured all these things in her heart;
• At the beginning of her son’s ministry at Cana, she instructed the stewards to do what her son would tell them;
• At Jesus’s public ministry, Mary was there following Jesus, silently and at a distance;
• At the station of the Cross she followed him – all the way and she stood there at the foot of the cross;
• Then at Jesus’ death, she was there and they laid him once again in her arm!

Brothers, YES, follow Jesus as Mary, our Blessed Mother, DID…! (Jun Mercado, OMI)

The 7 New Marist Brothers
Br. Gerry Daulog, FMS
Br. Jayjay Escuadro, FMS
Br. Abraham Kang Min-woo, FMS
Br. Kevin Anthony Legara, FMS
Br. Denxel Regi Natartez, FMS
Br. Roxan Paje, FMS
Br. Romar Rano, FMS

Catch the New Wind Blowing Our Way…

Catch the New Wind Blowing…
Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
Institute of Autonomy & Governance, NDU – Cotabato City

We are living in interesting times, to say the least. There are several writings on the wall and we need to decipher them soon else we all perish! Today, we are witnessing a global revolution that involves, at first glance, the rapid advances in technology and the rapid movements both of trade and peoples across known frontiers and borders. At a second glance, a new horizon is emerging, which points to knowledge “explosion” and an opening into the cyberspace. Yet, on the other hand, humankind continues, ironically, to be “plagued” by the residue of divisions, fragmentations and conflict that have characterized, in a special way, the past two millennia of our human encounters.

The movies and cinemas beautifully capture these two orientations mentioned above. While Star Wars Series and other Space Travels movies point to the cyber space beyond our planet and galaxy, the other type of movies like Jurassic Park and other ancient mythologies, continues to pull us down to the narrow confine of “geography” and “territoriality”. The former gives us a glimpse of the limitless expanse that our imagination and dream that invite us to beyond the limiting confines of territory and geography. The latter provides for the “grounding” of our conflicts and war.

There are two powerful symbols that can describe these two perspectives. The first one is what I called the “transit paradigm”. Transit is the instrument used mainly to delineate territory and geography. While “transit” has a long view, it returns home to concrete and specific area and space. The other is the “telescope paradigm”. Telescope is the instrument used to see the “beyond” and bridge us to that reality beyond.

By using the “transit” paradigm, we shall be marked and delineated by boundaries and limits. Something like what is mine and what is yours. Translated in our present discourse, this would mean who and what shall be inside or outside the expanded ARMM that shall be called Bangsamoro. What barangays and towns and body of water need to be included or re-attached to the ancestral domain? In fact, by using this paradigm, we sound like real state realtors or brokers agreeing and disagreeing over this piece of land or that piece of body waters. It is rather eerie to hear people debate heatedly and sometimes go to war on this subject when we are supposedly living in an era with no borders and frontiers. This paradigm is border/frontier based hence it carries inevitably a culture that is geography based identity. Inevitably, ethnicity and nationality are geography based and it becomes important in this type of discourse.

With this paradigm, we understand the theories and postulates about conflicts that are resource-based. The more strategic the resources, the more intense the conflict becomes. Attempts have been made to map the various conflicts in the world according to strategic resources that are found in specific geography. The conflict in Sudan, besides ethnicity and religions, is about oil and water – two very important strategic resources in Africa and the world.

At the heart of this paradigm is the classic threefold – source of conflict, that is, poverty, injustice and politic of exclusion. When one speaks of resources, he/she also asks the question who, ultimately, benefits from these resources? Division of resources of spoils often divides people between majority and minority, dominant and dominated, included and excluded and empowered and disempowered. In short, we are talking of injustice and politic of exclusion – whether real or imagined, hardly, makes a difference.

The last millennium saw countless territorial and geographical and religious wars in Europe. In the last century alone, two world wars were fought over geography. Thirty years ago, peoples of Europe strongly think along borderlines – Italy, Germany, France, etc. Twenty years ago, they fought and died over ideological differences of East and West symbolized by the Berlin Wall.
While wars and conflicts are still fought in other parts of the planet, like Asia and Africa, and part of the former East Europe, after two millennia of wars and conflict, a new consciousness is emerging. This consciousness leads to the understanding of mega nationality – European or continental and in the near future it would be planetary and galactic identity.

This new development, coupled by science fiction and non-fiction like the Star War Episodes, tells us of becoming “citizens” of the Universe while recognizing our planetary or galactic origins. I call this new development a “telescope paradigm”. There is the galaxy or the universe or the cosmos out there and we are only tiny, yet important, speck in the whole. This paradigm requires NOT the culture of isolation or exclusivism but the culture of connectivity and all-inclusiveness. In a smaller yet understandable concept, we are seeing, today, the collapse of borders and the emergence of mega nationalities and identity. While the resources are basic what we are seeing is the survival of the planet and our galaxy. Again in understandable terms, we speak of issues like global warming or climate change, care for the planet, dialogue and fellowship. We speak of mega nationality – like ASEAN or continental identity – Asia!

There are two big events that contribute to the emergence of this new paradigm. The first is the phenomenal melt down of glaciers somewhere near Greenland and big portion of the Antarctic. Then there is the reported surge of methane gas in the Antarctica that is a catastrophe in waiting. A few years ago (2007), religious leaders under the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and scientists made a pilgrimage to Greenland to see the impact of climate change. They came and saw that the real threat to the planet is coming NOT in fifty or hundreds years from now but in our own lifetime – in fifteen to twenty years! Our planet earth will undergo drastic change akin to the destruction described in Genesis during Noah’s times. In fact, this would soon change our understanding of wars, conflicts and survivals.

I believe that while we continue the peace talks, we begin locating the solutions to some of the intractable, identity-based conflicts beyond the limits of the present geopolitical landscape. What truly matters is not the question of this piece of land or that piece of body water – not the Muslim Mindanao or Bangsamoro, not this archipelago or that group of islands – but the survival of this planet and humankind.

It is in the light of the preceding discourse, that I believe the paramount importance of the seeming “uneventful” convergence of initiatives not only to introduce discussion and debates on climate change at the highest level of the UN but also to table at every Summit and Conference the agenda on climate change. The imperative of planetary survival and the urgency of forging new alliance for environment remain formidable challenges both to each member-state (religious, secular or otherwise) of the UN and to all. There is an urgent task to connect our national survival to planetary survival that must unite all our effort and strivings beyond the narrow confines of ethnicities and nationalities.

Faced with this formidable global challenge, there is, yet, another trajectory that invites humankind to dialogue and fellowship. The Planet Earth is, once again, menaced by violent extremism. We see, for the first time, a UN General Assembly debating peace and suvival and the importance of interreligious dialogue and intercultural cooperation.

The urgent call from these two seeming “uneventful” initiatives is an invitation to solidarity and partnership among the citizens of the planet earth.

In closing, I shall reiterate the urgency of the challenge of harnessing all our energy in the cause of peace and the survival of the planet. This is formidable and not for the faint of heart. Not only is this work is intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally draining, but it involves significant risks as well. Vested interests develop around every conflict that want to see that conflicts continue, and a number of inspired peacemakers have paid the ultimate price for their efforts: Mahatma Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, and Martin Luther King, Jr, to mention a few of the better known. Among the living, we point to people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis. Despite the risks, however, and as climate change so powerfully illustrates, ecological engagement is a challenge we ignore at our peril.

We need to be able to decipher the wirings on the wall. I believe that we need to get our acts together behind the call for planetary survival and interreligious dialogue and intercultural cooperation in building a new world that is not only more peaceful equitable and just but also ecology friendly that would ensure the survival of the earth.

(Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado, OMI is a professor of peace studies at Notre Dame University Graduate School and the San Beda Graduate School of Laws.)

When theWorld Is Led by a Child

I am posting here the NYT article of David Brooks… It echoes our own predicament and fears in the Philippines…

Jun Mercado, OMI

When the World Is Led by a Child
David Brooks
New York Times
May 15, 2017

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.

But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.
At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.
Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.
By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.
The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.
Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.

Saudi being Attacked by Sunni & Shi’a Leaders for the 1st Time…

For the first time, Saudi Arabia is being attacked by both Sunni and Shia leaders
By Robert Fisk
What, the Saudis must be asking themselves, has happened to the fawning leaders who would normally grovel to the Kingdom?
Masjid al haram
The Saudis step deeper into trouble almost by the week. Swamped in their ridiculous war in Yemen, they are now reeling from an extraordinary statement issued by around two hundred Sunni Muslim clerics who effectively referred to the Wahhabi belief – practiced in Saudi Arabia – as “a dangerous deformation” of SunniIslam. The prelates included Egypt’s Grand Imam, Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar, the most important centre of theological study in the Islamic world, who only a year ago attacked “corrupt interpretations” of religious texts and who has now signed up to “a return to the schools of great knowledge” outside Saudi Arabia.

This remarkable meeting took place in Grozny and was unaccountably ignored by almost every media in the world – except for the former senior associate at St Antony’s College, Sharmine Narwani, and Le Monde’s Benjamin Barthe – but it may prove to be even more dramatic than the terror of Syria’s civil war. For the statement, obviously approved by Vladimir Putin, is as close as Sunni clerics have got to excommunicating the Saudis.

Although they did not mention the Kingdom by name, the declaration was a stunning affront to a country which spends millions of dollars every year on thousands of Wahhabi mosques, schools and clerics around the world.

Wahhabism’s most dangerous deviation, in the eyes of the Sunnis who met in Chechenya, is that it sanctions violence against non-believers, including Muslims who reject Wahhabi interpretation. Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are the principal foreign adherents to this creed outside Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Saudis, needless to say, repeatedly insist that they are against all terrorism. Their reaction to the Grozny declaration has been astonishing. “The world is getting ready to burn us,” Adil Al-Kalbani announced. And as Imam of the King Khaled Bin Abdulaziz mosque in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, he should know.

As Narwani points out, the bad news kept on coming. At the start of the five-day Hajj pilgrimage, the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar published online a database which it said came from the Saudi ministry of health, claiming that up 90,000 pilgrims from around the world have died visiting the Hajj capital of Mecca over a 14-year period. Although this figure is officially denied, it is believed in Shia Muslim Iran, which has lost hundreds of its citizens on the Hajj. Among them was Ghazanfar Roknabadi, a former ambassador and intelligence officer in Lebanon.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has just launched an unprecedented attack on the Saudis, accusing them of murder. “The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers…” he said in his own Hajj message.

A Saudi official said Khameni’s accusations reflected a “new low”. Abdulmohsen Alyas, the Saudi undersecretary for international communications, said they were “unfounded, but also timed to only serve their unethical failing propaganda”.

Yet the Iranians have boycotted the Hajj this year (not surprisingly, one might add) after claiming that they have not received Saudi assurances of basic security for pilgrims. According to Khamenei, Saudi rulers “have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars”.
However exaggerated his words, one thing is clear: for the first time, ever, the Saudis have been assaulted by both Sunni and Shia leaders at almost the same time.

The presence in Grozny of Grand Imam al-Tayeb of Egypt was particularly infuriating for the Saudis who have poured millions of dollars into the Egyptian economy since Brigadier-General-President al-Sissi staged his doleful military coup more than three years ago.

What, the Saudis must be asking themselves, has happened to the fawning leaders who would normally grovel to the Kingdom?

“In 2010, Saudi Arabia was crossing borders peacefully as a power-broker, working with Iran, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and others to troubleshoot in regional hotspots,” Narwani writes. “By 2016, it had buried two kings, shrugged off a measured approach to foreign policy, embraced ‘takfiri’ madness and emptied its coffers.” A “takfiri” is a Sunni who accuses another Muslim (or Christian or Jew) of apostasy.

Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and Sudan were present in Grozny, along with – you guessed it – Ahmed Hassoun, the grand mufti of Syria and a loyal Assad man. Intriguingly, Abu Dhabi played no official role, although its policy of “deradicalisation” is well known throughout the Arab world.

But there are close links between President (and dictator) Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechenya, the official host of the recent conference, and Mohamed Ben Zayed al-Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince. The conference itself was opened by Putin, which shows what he thinks of the Saudis – although, typically, none of the Sunni delegates asked him to stop bombing Syria. But since the very meeting occurred against the backcloth of Isis and its possible defeat, they wouldn’t, would they?

That Chechenya, a country of monstrous bloodletting by Russia and its own Wahhabi rebels, should have been chosen as a venue for such a remarkable conclave was an irony which could not have been lost on the delegates. But the real questions they were discussing must have been equally apparent.

Who are the real representatives of Sunni Muslims if the Saudis are to be shoved aside? And what is the future of Saudi Arabia? Of such questions are revolutions made.


A Second Look at the Approaches to Militant Islam

A Second Look at the Approaches to Militant Islam…

Part of my present work is peace advocacy. This, inevitably, leads to the approaches to a perceived threat that is called Militant Islam, at times labeled as violent extremism. The term covers a lot of ground, as news reports tend to lump together Islamic movements regardless of ideology and persuasion. My approach deals with open and frank discussion with scholars, peace practitioners, and policy makers that deal directly or indirectly with the much “feared” militant Islamic movement aka violent extrtemism.

To begin with, Militant Islamic movements are NOT monolithic organizations forming a sort of international front (al-Qaeda, Jama’a Islamiyya, ISIS or otherwise). I recognize the legitimacy of the greater majority of Islamic movements that attempt to articulate in various ways a more authentic Islamic identity both in private and in public sphere. There is always the need to remind people, especially policy makers in the West, that the militant Islamic movements or violent extremism form a small (albeit very assertive) minority in the Muslim world.

There are now more than a billion Muslims in the world. Of this number, more than two third lives outside the Arab world. The biggest Muslim population is to be found in Indonesia. Muslims differ not only linguistically, ethnically, racially and culturally, but also by the major divisions in Islam between the Sunni and the Shiites and by various schools of laws therein.

Following the tragedy of 9/11, there is always the danger of falling victims to over simplistic responses or reactions to militant Islam or violent extremism in Islam. The US and its allies (the so-called the “coalition of the willing”) have launched the now famous slogan, “War against Terror”. The slogan without depth becomes a new reductionism that leads not only to a naive response to a very complex reality but also to certain myopia in facing the challenges of militant Islam. In fact, the myopia and naiveté fuel the prevailing paranoia in viewing militant Islam. Time and again, we need to emphasize that Islam and even the majority of the so-called militant Islamic movements do not constitute the new “ism” confronting the West or threatening world peace.

There is the danger that the Cold War of the recent past is NOW being replaced with a new war between Islam and the West (following the thought on the clash of civilization). The Crusade is long over…! The “war against terror” and the “coalition of the willing” approach often are interpreted in the Muslim world as new Crusades against Islam. Thus, it is crucial to differentiate in words and deeds (policy and commitments) the mainstream Muslims and “legitimate” Islamic movements on the one hand and Muslim individuals and groups that among others advocate for “terrorism” and violence, on the other.

Majority of the militant Islamic movements, including the more militant ones, are rooted on the perceived or real injustices and poverty. The disillusionment with the West and the US in particular, has material basis. Many people claim and believe that the singular US policy, which leads to Islamic radicalism and its anger, is its continued all-out support to Israel in the whole Israel-Palestine question notwithstanding the many UN Resolutions to the contrary. On this one particular issue, the US is, tragically, always pitted against the entire Muslim world. (By the way, the Organization of the Islamic Countries emerged following the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Sinai and Gaza post 1967 Arab-Israeli War.)

Burning issues that fuel this growing frustration and sense of hopelessness are the following:

• the continuing occupation of the West Bank;
• the absence of forward movement in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process;
• the ambiguity of other “Muslim homelands” in many parts of the world;
• the inclination to “lump” Islamic movements into “terrorists circles”; and
• the widespread poverty and lack of development in the world of Islam despite the almost limitless petro-dollars controlled by the few families in the oil producing countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

These and the continuing decline of Islamic world power following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire make the more militant radical groups more popular in the Muslim communities. Militant Islam, like the ISIS, attracts adherents and this may pose serious implications for the moderates – individuals and nations. The failure to address these burning issues “satisfactorily” provides the fertile ground for a “dangerous” militant brand of Islam.

The overall positive reality in the world of Islam notwithstanding the existence of the radicals is the fact that the great majority of Muslims and Islamic countries are moderates. No doubt, they can serve as positive forces and potential “bridges” not only between the Muslim masses and the moderates but also between Islam and the West. In the final analysis, it is truly a “battle” for the minds and the hearts of the masses. And this war is never won in the battlefield, even when couched with glorious slogans like “Operation Iraq Liberation/Freedom” or “War against Terror”. In fact, battlefields simply produce more martyrs and thereby further reducing the option to one, that is, more violence.

Another approach is the “policy of containment”. Containment has different meanings depending on perspectives. The common understanding is the military version that builds more fences, more road checkpoints, more blockades, and more blowing of bridges that separate peoples and communities. This type of containment exacerbates the tensions and the anger that push people to extremism. The other understanding of “containment” is not “geographical” but “paradigmatic”. It is said that the best way to contain the spread of militant Islam that is akin to virus is not to build more fences and walls but to come up with a “vaccine” that presents a better image and hermeneutic of Islam and traditions.

The biggest obstacle in grappling with the militant Islam is the prevailing widespread of Wahabbism not only in its traditional geographical sphere (Saudi Arabia) but the preponderance of Wahabbism spread through petro-dollars among the scholars trained in Saudi Arabia and in many madaris and foundations funded and supported by Saudi’s petro-dollars.

Wahabbism is the root to a taqlid-like approach to Islam that abhors any innovations (bid’a) and consciously promote a sort of return to the early Islam or the Medinan period (the Salafiyya movement is precisely a return to the “early fathers of Islam” referring to the Medinan Period).. Any departure from the practice of the early Islam is considered “haram” or forbidden. This is an ideological and paradigmatic approach of Wahabbism is the singular reason for the decline of Islam that reached its pinnacle of enlightenment during the Umayyad era that merged the ideas, philosophy and innovations by way of adaptation to the wisdom and knowledge of the great civilizations of the Greek, Latin (Rome), Indic and Chinese including the old Persian Empire. With Wahabbism, the approach is, simply, to repeat all that happened during the Median Era or simply return to the past that condemns any changes and innovations!

No doubt, there is also the urgent need to address the underlying socio-economic and political realities (real or perceived) that reduce the vast majority of Muslims to poverty and powerlessness. Petro-dollars and all the beneficence of the God-given oil/petrol must again be considered as the “patrimony” of the Ummah. There is a need to engage rulers of these petrol-producing countries and sheikdoms that it is a scandal in the Islamic Ummah to have the opulence of brought by petroleum being enjoyed by few families and treat these opulence as family owned that can be dispensed with according to the whims and caprices of their sheiks, emir and king and princes.

There is a growing rejection of interpreting faith as something limited to personal and private sphere. The exclusiveness of the billion petro-dollars and the prevailing politics of oil within the Ummah are not acceptable. The more enlightened Muslims should take the lead in asserting a more egalitarian and religious message of faith in the public sphere. Believers, governments, NGOs and community of nations should challenge the use of the multi-billion petro-dollar and make the blessing of petrol/oil more responsive to the needs of the Ummah everywhere thereby establishng a more equitable economic growth and distribution of wealth within the Ummah.

Is it not precisely the “reclaiming” of the public sphere that forms the concrete basis for the inter-religious dialogues among the peoples of the BOOK? Ultimately, the dialogue of life and dialogue of action make us all, Believers of Living Faiths, partners not only in our critique of the earth and our relationships but also in that great faith “enterprise” of building a new earth and forging new relationships.

In conclusion… I quote Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ: “The age of nations is past. It remains for us now, if we do not wish to perish, to set aside the ancient prejudice of ethnicity, religions, nations, cultures, civilizations, and build the earth.”

Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado, OMI
Professor – Notre Dame University Graduate School & San Beda Graduate School of Laws

Science and Religion

“The relationship between science and religion needs careful thought, not bluster. This includes, on the one hand, recognising that the nineteenth-century battle over Darwinism was contrived, and that there was never anything to fear for religious believers in the theory of evolution; and, on the other, acknowledging frankly that the Galileo affair represented an incursion by Church authority into an area where it had no competence.

Where religious or moral teachings partly rely for their persuasiveness on scientific evidence – the obligation to take action on climate change would be an example – they have to make room for the fact that science, of its very nature, changes its mind. The same applies to moral teachings based on natural law. Science can legitimately ask whether a particular view of human nature is based on sound evidence; and if it is not, the teaching based on it has to be corrected.

Such humility can be painful. But good science also needs humility. It might not be able to answer the questions why – but it can put them with great power. And believers must rise to the challenges they pose.”

(Quote from the Tablet, May 13, 2017)


Christian Symbol

Dear Folks.


Many people have constantly asked me why I love the Muslims and why I continue to dedicate my life and work on their behalf… The simple answer is the line found in the Qur’an which says that ‘among the people of the Book, you will find those who called themselves Christians, for in their midst there are monks and priest who are not haughty.’

The second is a response to the Prophet who in his lifetime had protected the Christians in the Peninsula of Arabia. This was true also for the 4 Rashidun Caliphs. In fact, Caliph ‘Umar ibn Khattab (the most religious of them all) refused the enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher after the conquest for the reason that the Muslims may laid claim over it.

I am publishing below the Prophet’s COVENANT OF PROTECTION – one of the few extant documents that bear the Prophet’s signature…
Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI
The Covenant of Protection

(The Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) Promise to the Monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery Until the End of Days – a document that bears the prophet’s signature in 628 ACE)

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day.”

Re-building our Broken Body…

Re-building the Broken Body…

NOW THAT the fragmented, unequal and divided reality has been laid bare, what can be done to rebuild the broken body?

The Beatitudes teach that the “poor in spirit” are blessed. The Church does its best to honour this. But have some of us in the Church been swept along and, inadvertently, focused on the interests of the destitute or of refugees or migrants or other minority groups, while overlooking the interests of the struggling working class families in our country, our own neighbourhoods?

We must look closer at the relationship between the Church and “the poor”. Faith in the City, the Church of England report published in 1985 in which my father, David Sheppard, the Anglican bishop of Liverpool, was closely involved, focused on “communities of the left behind”.

It reminded us that “Poverty is not only about shortage of money. It is about relationships; about how people are treated and how they regard themselves; about powerlessness, exclusion and loss of dignity.” We hear a lot in the churches about giving “a voice to the voiceless”; rather less about the unglamorous task of sitting down together and patiently building a common life.

(Ms. Jenny Sinclair,The Tablet, April 8/17)