Breaking barriers of prejudice, opening doors to dialogue and fostering harmony amongst varying belief systems, took center stage at the opening day of the 7th Philippine Conference of New Evangelization (PCNE) Tuesday, January 28 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Presiding over the morning’s “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino”, PCNE founder Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle implored that senseless violence and killings be halted, alluding to the crime that led to the murder of Abel at the hands of Cain. Offering reverence to the Patroness of Imus, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Cardinal Tagle also counseled the faithful to regard each other as brothers and sisters under the loving watch of the Blessed Mother.
“Ipinagbibilin ko sa lahat, huwag kalimutan na lahat ng tao ay matapat na paglingkuran at sa kapawa ipadama ang wagas na pagmamahal,” advised Cardinal Tagle.
Jesuit Communications Foundation Executive Director Fr.Nono Alfonso SJ and TV host Sam Oh, then hosted the morning’s final activity, “A Listening Heart”.
Starting off the group discussion segment were Cordillera natives, Dr. Genevieve Balance Kupang of Peacemakers’ Circle and Fr. Oscar Alunday SVD , provided insight into the profound link of indigenous peoples to their land, local customs and language.
Mr. Ted and Mrs. Arsela Arago of the Focolare Movement spoke of their formation programs that cater to interreligious dialogue, and how these in turn, strengthen their own Catholic faith. Fr. Sebastian D’Ambra, from the PIME (Silsilah Dialogue Movement), recounted stories from his lifelong vocation of serving and mediating in behalf of Muslims in Mindanao.
The highlight of the afternoon was the cordial get-together “Heart to Heart with Cardinal Chito”. Seated together with guests belonging to different religious backgrounds, Cardinal Tagle shared laughs, friendly conversations and valuable realizations throughout the program.
Secretary Leonor M. Briones of the Department of Education recalled how her Protestant upbringing never became a hindrance between her and the Muslims in her Visayan community. Kirk Damasco, co-founder of the Christian-themed merchandise brand Worship Generation, described how he experienced community and kindness with his bible group.
Celebrity couple Robin Padilla and Mariel Rodriguez gave a behind the scenes look into the dynamic between a Muslim husband and catholic wife. ABS-CBN News anchor Bernadette Sembrano narrated how their Sagip Kapamilya Foundation beneficiaries found God’s presence in the outpouring of support during times when they lost everything.
Meanwhile, it was Ms. Bai Rohaniza “Honey” Sumnad-Usman’s own experiences being Muslim in an all-girls Catholic school inspired her to bridge the gap between the two religions through her work as a peace advocate for the youth.