PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
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7-KM WALK GOOD FRIDAY PROCESSION: CATHOLICS PRAY FOR COUNTRY's SAFETY FROM CALAMITIES


LIFE AND DEATH OF CHRIST – Geraldo Galvez grimaces as he portrays a suffering Jesus Christ in a local community play, known as ‘Senakulo,’ yesterday – Maundy Thursday – in Mandaluyong City.
A seven-kilometer walk will be held in Manila today by the Catholic faithful to observe Good Friday and to pray for the country’s safety from calamities, especially after typhoon “Chedeng” entered the Philippine area of responsibility yesterday.
Participants from the 500 parishes in Metro Manila will observe the solemn street procession which is also known as the “Via Crucis” or the “Way of the Cross,” to commemorate the passion and death of Christ. It will start at 4 a.m. from San Juan De Dios Hospital in Pasay City and end at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. “When confronted by calamities, people oftentimes feel helpless and hopeless because they can’t control it. This is a call to everyone to show our united stand in begging the Lord to protect us,” said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: On Good Friday, Pope Francis condemns killing of Christians


Pope Francis prays in front of the Colosseum during the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. AP/Gregorio Borgia
ROME — Pope Francis, presiding at the traditional Good Friday Colosseum procession, decried what he called the "complicit silence" about the killing of Christians. The evening, torch-lit ceremony at the ancient arena recalls the suffering and death of Jesus by crucifixion. After listening silently, often with head bowed and eyes tightly shut, to reflections read aloud about Jesus' suffering, Francis pressed what lately has been an urgent concern of his papacy -- the present-day martyrdom of Christians in parts of the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. "We see, even today, our brothers persecuted, beheaded and crucified, for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or often with our complicit silence," he said, as he prayed. READ MORE...

ALSO: Penitents fulfill bloody Lenten vow: Crucifixion


'CONSUMMATUM EST’ – A local actor, portraying a centurion, thrusts his lance at the side of Ruben Enaje, a penitent who took the role of Jesus Christ, at the end of a bloody re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ – a yearly ritual in Cutud, San Fernando, Pampanga, that attracts not only devotees but thousands of local and foreign tourists who come to witness the flogging, whipping, lashing, and crucifixion of penitents. (Michael Varcas)
 Devotees marked Good Friday by being nailed to crosses and whipping their backs bloody, in extreme acts of devotion that attracted thousands of spectators.
The annual ritual in scorching hot farmlands in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga and neighboring town of Bulacan is one of many colorful outpourings of faith in the country, where 80 percent of its 100 million people are Catholics. A total 10 Catholics were crucified during the reenactment in Barangays Sta. Lucia, San Juan and San Pedro Cutud in the City of San Fernando. Spectators have likewise watched the processions of flagellants, hooded men whipping their already bleeding backs parading towards the “Calvary.”  Dressed in nothing but a white and red sheath wrapped around their hips, Melchor Montoya, 60, who portrayed as main “Kristo,” and Fernando Mamangun, 45, and Danilo Ramos, 44, were nailed to wooden crosses after parading the more than one-kilometer stretch leading to a makeshift “Calvary” near the gymnasium in Barangay Sta. Lucia. READ MORE...

ALSO: Thousands join 'Santo Entierro' procession in Albay


Thousands of catholic devotees from Polangui and Legazpi City in Albay on Good Friday, April 3, join the Santo Entierro procession where the participants wearing white and black walk barefoot for the entire event. Danny Pata Devotees of the Black Nazarene flocked to Manila's Quiapo district to pay homage to their patron, whose Passion and death is commemorated on Good Friday. Precy Valencia, 44, a female penitent, is nailed to a cross in Paombong, Bulacan on Good Friday, April 3, as spectators, including foreign and local media, watch during a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ..
Reuters/Ezra Acayan 
MORE PHOTOS FROM GMA NEWS...

ALSO: ‘Bridge of Peace’ to rise in Mamasapano
[In a statement Catapang said: “Wala ng all-out offensive. Pauwiin na natin ang ating mga kababayan sa kanilang mga tahanan.” [The offensive has been terminated. All the residents displaced by the fighting will now be allowed to return to their homes.]  COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is set to replace a wooden footbridge in Barangay Tukanalipao – the site of the January 25 Mamasapano incident.
According to officials, a steel bridge and an 880 meters access road will be built in Takunalipao, connecting the village to the main highway to facilitate the movement of people and agricultural products. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the P7.5-million access road and the 120 meters, P10-million steel bridge were held last Tuesday. The event brought together officials from the government, military, business sector and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The bridge project was given the moniker “bridge of peace” as the infrastructure would be built in the aftermath of the incident in Mamasapano that killed a total of 67 people, 44 of whom are members of the police Special Action Force. ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the infrastructure projects should help residents overcome the scars dealt by the January 25 incident and facilitate agricultural development in Mamasapano. READ MORE...

ALSO: Normalization to help prevent ISIS-like radicalism [Aside from the political and socio-economic aspects of normalization, Stavrou maintained that psycho-social interventions were equally important. “The psycho-social component of conflict lingers the most. You need to institute programs to address that in order to put an end to the cycle of conflict and violence,” says DDR expert]  The tough phase of the Bangsamoro peace agreement should be fully implemented so as to keep people in Mindanao from turning to violence and being lured to radicalism and terrorism, an international expert on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) said in a forum before the Holy Week break. DDR expert Stavros Stavrou underscored the importance of a successful normalization process as it will help prevent radicalization that is now spreading in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) areas in the Middle East and Central Asia. Stavrou pointed out that “the real question is whether ex-combatants have indeed become ex-combatants—that you have taken those people out of the culture and context of conflict.”  “Providing stability and sustainability to these ex-combatants are important in ensuring they would not be enticed to return to armed radicalism,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO TIMES EDITORIAL: The call of Easter

Resurrection Sunday is more apt a descriptive phrase for Easter Sunday, and it’s not merely semantics. In this day and age, with humanity’s penchant for symbolism, Easter Sunday has come to mean colorful boiled eggs and, for many Christian Filipinos, stuffed toys called bunnies—in the absence of real rabbits. Easter has metamorphosed into variations of parlor games for children as encouraged by adults. To put it more accurately, it has been systematically institutionalized by most parents both Christians and non-Christians. Like Christmas, the Holy Week has been trivialized by commerce. No wonder the Pew Research Center has released timely data on religions of the world, with conclusive evidence that should raise the alarm bells for Christian leaders. “The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths,” the group said in a statement released along with the results earlier this month.

“Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion . . .”   What the numbers are saying is that more and more people would no longer adhere to the organized system of belief that because God loved humanity so much he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to atone for the sins of mankind and to make it possible for man to enter heaven. “If current demographic trends continue, however, Islam will nearly catch up by the middle of the 21st century. Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase. Over that same period, Muslims—a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates—are projected to increase by 73 percent. The number of Christians is also projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35 percent) as the global population overall.”  CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Catholics pray for safety at Good Friday procession

MANILA, APRIL 6, 2015 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Raymund F. Antonio April 3, 2015


LIFE AND DEATH OF CHRIST – Geraldo Galvez grimaces as he portrays a suffering Jesus Christ in a local community play, known as ‘Senakulo,’ yesterday – Maundy Thursday – in Mandaluyong City.

A seven-kilometer walk will be held in Manila today by the Catholic faithful to observe Good Friday and to pray for the country’s safety from calamities, especially after typhoon “Chedeng” entered the Philippine area of responsibility yesterday.

Participants from the 500 parishes in Metro Manila will observe the solemn street procession which is also known as the “Via Crucis” or the “Way of the Cross,” to commemorate the passion and death of Christ.

It will start at 4 a.m. from San Juan De Dios Hospital in Pasay City and end at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.

“When confronted by calamities, people oftentimes feel helpless and hopeless because they can’t control it. This is a call to everyone to show our united stand in begging the Lord to protect us,” said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs.

CONTINUE READING...
The event, now on its second year, is organized by Radio Veritas in partnership with the Manila Archdiocese.

“We believe in the power of prayer that God will deliver us from major calamities. In 2014, we didn’t have too many terrible typhoons and natural calamities,” said Father Anton Pascual, Radio Veritas president.


Interred Christ, or the Santo Entierro, inside a glass case at the St. Joseph Church, more popularly known as home of the 191-year-old Las Piñas Bamboo Organ. According to local tradition, the image of the dead Christ will be taken on a funeral procession today – Good Friday – after 3 p.m. or the time when Christ was believed to have died. (KJ Rosales/Ali Vicoy)

The priest said that the event is organized to seek spiritual intervention not only against natural calamities but also to help the people to overcome “man-made disasters.”

“Let us all pray for peace in Mindanao,” he asked the faithful.

A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE

Those who will join the penitential walk can expect to witness a dramatization of the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus’ Seven Last Words and a traditional Passion play called “Senakulo.”

“Instead of reading the scriptural text pertaining to each station of the cross, a Senakulo will be shown to dramatize the events of each station. Such a dramatization seeks to capture the uniquely Filipino tradition of celebrating Good Friday,” said Monsignor Cesar Pagulayan.

STATIONS OF THE CROSS

The various stations of the cross will be located in the following places:

1.San Juan De Dios Hospital, 1st station;
2.Coko 1 Building/Patio Madrigal, 2nd station;
3.711 Convenient Store, 3rd station;
4.Philsmed Foundation, 4th station;
5.Lourdes Street, 5th station;
6.CCP Fountain, 6th station;
7.corner of BSP and in front of Manila Yacht Club, 7th station;
8.abandoned building before Aristocrat, 8th station;
9.Pan Pacific, 9th station;
10.Coffee Bean/ Asia United Bank, 10th station;
11.U.N Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard, 11th station;
12.Manila Hotel, 12th station;
13.Philippine Ports Authority, 13th station; and
14.Monumento going to the Manila Cathedral, 14th station.

In a related development, a church official advised the faithful to reflect on the passion and death of Christ with fasting, abstinence and penance. He cautioned that for penitence, one does not have to go to the extreme, like self-flagellation, to seek forgiveness for one’s sins.

ON SELF-FLAGELLATION

“Physical punishment will remind the burden of their sins, but it doesn’t mean when they do it, they will be saved them from their sins. What is more important is a change of heart and devoting oneself to God,” Monsignor Cesar Pagulayan, vicar forane of Sta. Clara De Montefalco Vicariate, said.

Self-flagellation is not sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The practice, however, traces its roots a long time ago, as part of folk Catholicism, he said.

In some provinces, religious fanatics reenact Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday with their own version of being nailed to the cross. For most penitents, reenacting the crucifixion is their atonement for their sins or fulfillment of a vow in exchange for a granted favor from Divine Providence.

This has become a tourist attraction to some foreigners, but the practice does not sit well with the Church leaders.

“As the Christ says, ‘If you want to follow me take up your cross daily.’ It doesn’t mean get two pieces of wood, nail them to make a cross, and carry it on your shoulder, not even during the Lenten season. We should take the responsibility of life as a cross. We should accept, embrace and carry it. We should not allow others to do it for us,” Pagulayan.

NO MEAT FRIDAY

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church launched the Meat-Free Friday Movement as a way to raise awareness on spiritual purification, physical health and the environment.

Father Anton Pascual, Radio Veritas president, said that abstaining from eating meat is depriving one’s pleasure in order to develop self-control. He also said that reduced meat consumption is beneficial to health and the environment.


PHILSTAR

On Good Friday, Pope Francis condemns killing of Christians By Frances D'Emilio (Associated Press) | Updated April 4, 2015 - 11:17am


Pope Francis prays in front of the Colosseum during the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. AP/Gregorio Borgia

ROME — Pope Francis, presiding at the traditional Good Friday Colosseum procession, decried what he called the "complicit silence" about the killing of Christians.

The evening, torch-lit ceremony at the ancient arena recalls the suffering and death of Jesus by crucifixion.

After listening silently, often with head bowed and eyes tightly shut, to reflections read aloud about Jesus' suffering, Francis pressed what lately has been an urgent concern of his papacy -- the present-day martyrdom of Christians in parts of the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.

"We see, even today, our brothers persecuted, beheaded and crucified, for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or often with our complicit silence," he said, as he prayed.

READ MORE...
A cross is lighten before the start of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession to be celebrated by Pope Francis in front of the Colosseum on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP/Alessandra Tarantino)

A few hours earlier, Francis had condemned the deadly attack by Islamic militants targeting Christians at a Kenyan university. Earlier this year he denounced the murder in Libya of 21 Coptic Christians by Islamic State-affiliated militants, saying they were slain simply for being Christian. And he has lamented how Christians in parts of the Middle East have been forced to flee their ancient communities to escape persecution.

Among those chosen to take turns carrying the lightweight, slender cross in the procession were faithful from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and China.

One of the prayers during the procession called for the "fundamental right of religious freedom" to spread throughout the world.

In another reflection, a lector said "our conscience is troubled. We anxiously ask: When will the death penalty, still practiced in many states, be abolished?" There was also an appeal for the end of all torture.

Tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans held candles as they joined in the prayers on a warm night.

Francis will celebrate Easter vigil Mass Saturday night in St. Peter's Basilica. On Easter Sunday morning, he will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square.


MANILA BULLETIN

Penitents fulfill bloody Lenten vow: Crucifixion
by Franco G. Regala, Freddie C. Velez, & AFP April 4, 2015 (updated)


CONSUMMATUM EST’ – A local actor, portraying a centurion, thrusts his lance at the side of Ruben Enaje, a penitent who took the role of Jesus Christ, at the end of a bloody re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ – a yearly ritual in Cutud, San Fernando, Pampanga, that attracts not only devotees but thousands of local and foreign tourists who come to witness the flogging, whipping, lashing, and crucifixion of penitents. (Michael Varcas) ‘

Devotees marked Good Friday by being nailed to crosses and whipping their backs bloody, in extreme acts of devotion that attracted thousands of spectators.

The annual ritual in scorching hot farmlands in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga and neighboring town of Bulacan is one of many colorful outpourings of faith in the country, where 80 percent of its 100 million people are Catholics.

A total 10 Catholics were crucified during the reenactment in Barangays Sta. Lucia, San Juan and San Pedro Cutud in the City of San Fernando. Spectators have likewise watched the processions of flagellants, hooded men whipping their already bleeding backs parading towards the “Calvary.”

Dressed in nothing but a white and red sheath wrapped around their hips, Melchor Montoya, 60, who portrayed as main “Kristo,” and Fernando Mamangun, 45, and Danilo Ramos, 44, were nailed to wooden crosses after parading the more than one-kilometer stretch leading to a makeshift “Calvary” near the gymnasium in Barangay Sta. Lucia.

READ MORE...
Alex Larangan and Wilfredo Salvador had their hands nailed to wooden crosses in another improvised “Calvary” in Barangay San Juan, said Maleldo chairman, councilor Harvey Quiwa. Ruben Enaje, 54, along with Jerry Manansala, 28, Victor Caparas, 54, Ramil Lazaro, 42, and Byron Gomez were crucified in Barangay San Pedro Cutud. Enaje acted as “Kristo” for the 29th time.

Quiwa said the crucifixion rites in the three sites started as early as 10 a.m. and ended past 2 p.m. He added that majority of spectators were foreign tourists, mostly Koreans.

“I feel no pain because I know I am one with my God in suffering,” 30-year-old construction worker Arjay Rivera told AFP before he slit his back with broken bottles and razors, later whipping himself with bamboo flails to keep the wounds open.

As the flagellants made an excruciatingly slow barefoot march to the hill in Barangay San Juan, some of them stopped at times to lay face down on the hot pavement and let children flog them with twigs.

Five men had nails hammered through their palms and feet while four others, some with fake beards drawn on their faces to resemble Christ, were tied to the crosses.

They wailed in pain as attendants, costumed as Roman centurions, pounded the nails through their palms.

“My faith got me through my illness. I will continue doing this for as long as I live,” Salvador told AFP after he was taken down from a cross, his hands and feet wrapped in bandages.

“It was painful up there, but I felt light. I can’t explain it. I would say my faith is very strong,” added the 50-year-old, who said he had recovered from a nervous breakdown several years ago.

Several of the men have undergone multiple crucifixions over the years.

OTHER PENITENTS

In Paombong, Bulacan, faith healer Jon-Jon Tanael fainted when native actors playing the roles of Roman Centurions pulled out the nails from his hands and feet during the bloody Lenten rituals at a man-made Golgotha beside the chapel in Barangay Kapitangan.

Tanael, who was crucified for the seventh consecutive year, was first dragged and whipped by native centurions before he was raised to a wooden cross where stainless steel nails were driven through his palms and feet.

This was witnessed by thousands of spectators, mostly local and foreign tourists who braved the heat of the noon day sun to witness the bloody Holy Week tradition here.

Tanael was the second to be crucified at the man-made hill erected at a rice field here where scores of faith healers and bareback flagellants fulfill their Holy Week vows every Good Friday.

First to be nailed was Roger Marcos then another faith healer known only a “Erick,” then followed by female faith healer Precy Valencia and Michael Katigbak.

Veteran native “centurion” Edong Caparas, 79, who has nailed scores of penitents for more than 30 years before he retired four years ago, said that most of the penitents who were nailed to the cross every Good Friday claimed they saw visions and heard “divine voices,” telling them to fulfill their vows.

‘GRAD SCHOOL’ FOR FAITH HEALERS

Caparas said that the man-made Golgotha in Barangay Kapitangan here has become some sort of a “graduate school” for faith healers.

“Karamihan sa mga nagpapako ay naging magagaling na albularyo at may mga itinayong sariling mga kapilya kung saan doon sila nanggagamot (Many of those who have themselves crucified become faith healers and put up their own chapels where they can perform their healing powers),” Caparas said.

He said that among the “fulfilled faith healers” was Amparo Santos, popularly known as “Mother Paring” of Guiguinto, Bulacan.

He said Santos has already fulfilled her Lenten vow of getting herself nailed to the cross every Good Friday for 15 consecutive years.

She now conducts spiritual healing sessions at the St. Joseph Chapel in Bgy. Tabe, Guiguinto, also in Bulacan.

Caparas also said a certain Buboy Dionisio performed the bloody ritual of getting nailed to the cross on Good Friday for 16 consecutive years.

Another lady faith healer, who Caparas could only identify as “Lucy,” had also fulfilled her Lenten vow by being crucified for 15 straight years.“Kagaya ko , mga graduate na din sila at nanggagamot na lamang (Like me, they have all ‘graduated’ and we are now just healers),” Caparas said.

San Fernando Archbishop Florentino Lavarias has discouraged the bloody practice, saying there were other ways to profess one’s faith.


GMA NEWS TV PHOTOS

Thousands join Santo Entierro procession in Albay Uploaded on 9:28AM


Thousands of catholic devotees from Polangui and Legazpi City in Albay on Good Friday, April 3, join the Santo Entierro procession where the participants wearing white and black walk barefoot for the entire event. Danny Pata

DEVOTEES IN QUIAPO, MANILA
Devotees of the Black Nazarene flocked to Manila's Quiapo district to pay homage to their patron, whose Passion and death is commemorated on Good Friday.

|
Photo tweeted by radio dzBB's Carlo Mateo showed many of the devotees wearing Nazarene-themed shirts and taking part in the procession. Many brought flowers as well as smaller images of their patron. As many as 10,000 devotees took part in Friday's activities, dzBB's Mateo added. Police were on alert in the area to ensure the activities are peaceful and orderly. The devotees are known to pay homage to the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9, taking part in a Traslacion that lasts nearly the whole day. — Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

Female penitent nailed to cross in Bulacan Uploaded on 8:41PM Apr 3


Precy Valencia, 44, a female penitent, is nailed to a cross in Paombong, Bulacan on Good Friday, April 3, as spectators, including foreign and local media, watch during a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.. Reuters/Ezra Acayan

Cops in Cordillera reenact Christ’s passion, death April 3, 2015 4:18pm


Police personnel in the Cordillera region reenacted on Good Friday the Passion and death of Christ via the Stations of the Cross.
In Benguet, photos posted by the Philippine National Police in Cordillera showed the activity held at Camp Bado Dangwa Friday morning. The photos showed police personnel joining a brief prayer before one of the police officers in uniform carried a cross. A priest accompanied the police personnel as he followed the route of the Stations of the Cross.


MANILA TIMES

‘Bridge of Peace’ to rise in Mamasapano April 4, 2015 9:41 pm by JULMUNIR IRAN JANNARAL

COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is set to replace a wooden footbridge in Barangay Tukanalipao – the site of the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

According to officials, a steel bridge and an 880 meters access road will be built in Takunalipao, connecting the village to the main highway to facilitate the movement of people and agricultural products.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the P7.5-million access road and the 120 meters, P10-million steel bridge were held last Tuesday. The event brought together officials from the government, military, business sector and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The bridge project was given the moniker “bridge of peace” as the infrastructure would be built in the aftermath of the incident in Mamasapano that killed a total of 67 people, 44 of whom are members of the police Special Action Force.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the infrastructure projects should help residents overcome the scars dealt by the January 25 incident and facilitate agricultural development in Mamasapano.

READ MORE...
Hataman also announced the realignment of at least P10-million worth of livelihood projects under ARMM’s Health, Education, Livelihood, Peace and Governance, and Synergy project to Tukanalipao that is being worked out with the Department of Budget and Management.

Executive Director Amir Mawallil of the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information told The Manila Times that the Muslim autonomous region will invest around P77-million in various infrastructure projects to help address the development needs of identified communities in Mamasapano.

Mawallil also said that aside from the steel bridge and access road, the region’s Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under Regional Secretary Emil Sadain will also put up nine school buildings and eight water and sanitation facilities.

Von Al-Haq, spokesman of MILF’s armed component, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces,welcomed the rehabilitation of the bridge and the other development projects of the ARMM.

Al-Haq said the MILF is a “pro-development organization” and they welcome projects designed to improve conditions in the Bangsamoro areas.

For his part, armed forces chief, General Gregorio Pio Catapang declared the termination of the all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

In a statement Catapang said: “Wala ng all-out offensive. Pauwiin na natin ang ating mga kababayan sa kanilang mga tahanan.” [The offensive has been terminated. All the residents displaced by the fighting will now be allowed to return to their homes.]


MANILA TIMES

Normalization to help prevent ISIS-like radicalism April 4, 2015 10:01 pm by CATHERINE VALENTE AND NEIL ALCOBER

The tough phase of the Bangsamoro peace agreement should be fully implemented so as to keep people in Mindanao from turning to violence and being lured to radicalism and terrorism, an international expert on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) said in a forum before the Holy Week break.

DDR expert Stavros Stavrou underscored the importance of a successful normalization process as it will help prevent radicalization that is now spreading in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) areas in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Stavrou pointed out that “the real question is whether ex-combatants have indeed become ex-combatants—that you have taken those people out of the culture and context of conflict.”

“Providing stability and sustainability to these ex-combatants are important in ensuring they would not be enticed to return to armed radicalism,” he said.

READ MORE...
“If you are able to attract the most number of combatants possible in the process, then you are in a good position to prevent ISIS-like elements from emerging. But if you don’t deliver, you will definitely see resistance,” Stavrou added.

Currently working as a senior social development specialist at the World Bank, Stavrou has been at the forefront of reintegration programs with ex-combatants for more than 15 years.

He oversaw and implemented normalization-like initiatives in Iraq, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Sudan among other countries.

Stavrou said that the communities also must be involved in the normalization process by ensuring they are sensitive to acting immediately on or preventing a situation that would make ex-combatants return to their old ways.

“You need to sensitize both the ex-combatants and the communities properly. You cannot have situations wherein ex-combatants are being taken advantage of again,” Stavrou said.

“The normalization phase is the time to plant the seeds of development. However, this can only happen when we treat our partners from across the negotiating table with the same respect we’d afford ourselves,” he added.

Aside from the political and socio-economic aspects of normalization, Stavrou maintained that psycho-social interventions were equally important.

“The psycho-social component of conflict lingers the most. You need to institute programs to address that in order to put an end to the cycle of conflict and violence,” he said.

Earlier, government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that “by forging a peace agreement with the government, the MILF has committed to renounce violence and terrorism as an ideology and way of life.”

“The full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will ensure that the leaders and followers of the MILF will desist from going the way of the ISIS,” she added.

The normalization process, including the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons, shall be implemented by the executive branch and will coincide with and shall be commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the parties.


MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL

The call of Easter

Resurrection Sunday is more apt a descriptive phrase for Easter Sunday, and it’s not merely semantics.

In this day and age, with humanity’s penchant for symbolism, Easter Sunday has come to mean colorful boiled eggs and, for many Christian Filipinos, stuffed toys called bunnies—in the absence of real rabbits. Easter has metamorphosed into variations of parlor games for children as encouraged by adults. To put it more accurately, it has been systematically institutionalized by most parents both Christians and non-Christians.

Like Christmas, the Holy Week has been trivialized by commerce.

No wonder the Pew Research Center has released timely data on religions of the world, with conclusive evidence that should raise the alarm bells for Christian leaders.

“The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths,” the group said in a statement released along with the results earlier this month.

“Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion . . .”

What the numbers are saying is that more and more people would no longer adhere to the organized system of belief that because God loved humanity so much he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to atone for the sins of mankind and to make it possible for man to enter heaven.

“If current demographic trends continue, however, Islam will nearly catch up by the middle of the 21st century. Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase. Over that same period, Muslims—a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates—are projected to increase by 73 percent. The number of Christians is also projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35 percent) as the global population overall.”

CONTINUE READING...
As a result, according to the Pew Research projections, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30 percent of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31 percent), possibly for the first time in history.

If leaders of Christian churches have the compulsion to do something about it, they must face these questions squarely for starters:

Why are Christians leaving the church?

Why is there so much factionalism among church leaders and within the congregation?

What is happening to the credibility of church leadership?

What must the leadership do to address such issues?

Perhaps, the Christian believers themselves may also do well to refresh their memory of the series of events that had led to the Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, which is the basic foundation of the faith to which they adhere:

There would have been no Resurrection Sunday if there were no Good Friday.

And on Maundy Thursday, Jesus gave the apostles the means from a loving God for mankind to merit heaven. He showed them that man had to serve fellowmen humbly and do even the work of a slave (like washing others’ feet) to help one another. He instituted the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament that would miraculously help man become more and more like Christ himself.

He did everything that was laid out for him to do in accordance with his Father’s grand plan of salvation that gives every believer freedom from the shackles of sin and death and the gift of resurrection to live an everlasting life.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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