I feel highly honored by your gracious invitation for me to give an inspirational message on this auspicious occasion marking the first Assembly of [Zambasuli] Clergy being held here in Tawi-Tawi. Your choice of Tawi-Tawi as venue for this important assembly speaks well of the many wonderful things or developments that are happening in our province today, by the grace of the All-Merciful God. We would like to believe that your reverends’ have chosen Tawi-Tawi as the point of convergence your assembly because of its enduring peace and its religious harmony and tolerance.
On this inspiring note, I would like to welcome all you reverend priests to Tawi-Tawi. Also I would like to express our sincerest appreciation to you for the high and singular honor that you have accorded our province and its constituents in holding your assembly here.
Tawi-Tawi has been, and will continue to be, a haven of peace and religious harmony and tolerance by the grace of Almighty Allah. This will clearly articulate the fact the Muslims and Christians, who co-existed in complete harmony and fraternal solidarity, have truly internalized and practiced the essential teachings of peace and tolerance of Islam and Christianity as monotheistic religions. Today, we have a vibrant and functioning inter-faith inter-faith dialogue that aims to foster and strengthen the atmosphere of understanding and cooperation between believers of Islam and Christianity in Tawi-Tawi. For peace can only be sustained in multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities through tolerance, understanding, and respect for each other’s beliefs.
Islam, from its inception, is a religion of peace. Islam means complete surrender or submission to the Will of Allah, and humanity to man. Muslim’s universal greetings of “Assalamu Alaikum” or “Peace be with you” underscores the primary goal of Islam which seeks to establish world peace through individual orientation and daily practices.
Islam’s teaching of religious tolerance and freedom is strikingly articulated in the Qur’an when it categorically declares, “La ikraha fid deen” meaning, “there is no compulsion in religion (Sura Bakarah, verses 258). The concept of freedom of religion which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights has long been recognized in Islam.
And the most striking injunction of the Qur’an about tolerance and great respect for Christianity can be found in Surah 5 verse 82 which states: “and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians, that is because amongst them are priests and monks and they are not proud.”
There are many other hadiths and sayings of Prophet Muhammad, sallallaho Alaihi wa sallam, which enjoins religious tolerance and understanding.
These are teachings of Islam which have influenced or shaped our people’s values, attitudes, manners and cultures of peace.
When the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) established the first Notre Dame School in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in 1951, our people interposed no objection because Muslims here have already imbibed the Qur’anic injunction of religious freedom and tolerance.
Today, the three (3) Notre Dame schools in Tawi-Tawi have tremendously contributed to the educational and economic development of Tawi-Tawi. After 60 years, Notre Dame schools continue to make a difference in the lives and education of our youth, for many graduates have already become professionals in different fields.
An assembly like this one is always greeted with high expectation of dynamic changes in terms of Church policies and agenda. We are hopeful that whatever policy that may be adopted by your assembly may enhance your organization’s contribution to peace and development of our beloved province of Tawi-Tawi.
Again, thank you for making Tawi-Tawi very significant in your estimation.