Faith Leaders at Philippines Leadership Conference Say Shared Values Can Build Social Cohesion

Eric Olsen
December 9, 2022
 

Session 1 panelists, from left: James Flynn, Global Peace Foundation International President; Bishop Dr. Paul Murray, Vice Chairman of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat in Washington and International Vice President of Religious Freedom Initiatives for the Global Peace Foundation; Venerable Preah Bhikku Kassapa Hun Khamra, Executive Director of the International Cambodian Buddhist Centre; and Eisa Javier, Imam and Khatib Masjid Arrrahma..

The three-day leadership conference, “One Family Under God: A Vision for a World of Freedom and Peace,” had two dedicated sessions on Interreligious Peacebuilding, “Building Social Cohesion through Shared Values,” and “Community-driven Peacebuilding through Shared Values: Effective Methods and Lessons Learned from the Field.”

Addressing session 1, Global Peace Foundation International President James Flynn said, “peace building is anything that strengthens the community or environment against the violence.”  He underscored the significance of principles and values and clarified the distinction between them. “Principles are the truth, what a person stands for life,” he said, while “values are where we apply principles in life.”

Small groups discussed challenges and effective strategies for promoting social cohesion in diverse societies.

Bishop Dr. Paul Murray, Vice Chairman of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat in Washington and International Vice President of Religious Freedom Initiatives for the Global Peace Foundation; and Eisa Javier, Imam and Khatib Masjid Arrrahma from the Philippines brought attention to ongoing harassment and persecution of religious adherents around the world, with the Imam affirming the rights of conscience and declaring that “there is no compulsion in religion.”

“Tragically today, Dr. Murray stated, “a stunning 83 percent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is either threatened or even banned.” “

Venerable Preah Bhikku Kassapa Hun Khamra, Executive Director of the International Cambodian Buddhist Centre, said, “Peace starts among ourselves, within the family, with neighbors, the workplace, community, and country by understanding human values and universal principles. Right belief leads to right action which leads to right habit.”

“This beautiful earth in this home and we are family; be kind to each other; be compassionate, help and respect one another, be grateful, positive, and forgive. Fix our mind, fix our problems.”
— Venerable Preah Bhikku Kassapa Hun Khamra

The session concluded with a “Global Café,” a structured learning exercise with participants organized in small groups and tasked with answering questions presented three rounds:

  • What are the societal challenges in Building Social Cohesion in the Region?
  • What are the consequences if these were not resolved?
  • What must be considered for a more effective response to these challenges?

Participants were encouraged to speak their mind and heart, listen, connect ideas, and finally synthesize the varied perspectives and responses to create or to develop a new method of solving the problem or the challenge of building social cohesion through shared values.

Building Social Cohesion through Shared Values

As moderator of session 2, Bishop Dr. Paul Murray led discussions with four distinguished panelists where he highlighted how we must never lose sight of the true importance of religious freedom. “It’s about community and communal responsibility connected through shared values,” he said.

Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist leaders emphasized shared values and the importance of freedom of faith and conscience.

Fr. Arnold M. Abelardo, a U.S. educated Catholic priest serving in Nueva Ecija, Philippines, described his experience in the conflict region of Marawi. Amid killings and refugees displaced by violence, Fr. Abelardo explained that kapwa, or shared identity and equality and “respect” bring us closer to the table of understanding.

Imam Talib Shareef, President and Imam – Masjid Muhammad at The Nation’s Mosque in Washington, DC., and National Advisory Board member of GPF-USA, served both as a moderator in session 1 and panelist in session 2, where he presented is perspective as an American Muslim and urged those of different faiths and other backgrounds to work together and recognize the many values and experiences that we as members of the human family share in common.

During concluding summations, Philippine Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Isidro L. Purisima gave a summary of government efforts to address the threat of terrorism and foster social healing, including an Executive Order on Peace Education in Philippines schools.

The Global Peace Leadership Conference concluded on December 3 and included dedicated sessions on Transforming Education, Women’s Empowerment, Corporate Social Responsibility, Peace and Security, and the Role of the Media in Peacebuilding, Conflict Management, and Prevention.

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