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PIA Press Release

Romulo: Long road to peace requires government-civil society partnership

Manila, March 16 (PNA) -- Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo dared members of the civil society to think of innovative ideas that would boost government-civil society partnership in the promotion of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

Addressing over 70 participants from national, regional and international faith-based groups, civil society and academe, Secretary Romulo stressed the important role that civil society plays in the achievement of lasting peace.

"In our long journey towards the pursuit of a lasting peace, governments around the world understand that the job is not theirs alone. Civil society has a significant role to play. This is the challenge of your workshop today. We need new ideas, new instruments, and new concrete plans of action that optimize the government-civil society partnership that plays up each partner's strength and at the same time reflect and respect its different natures," he said.

The International Workshop of Faith-Based Groups and Civil Society (IWFC) - Strengthening Partnerships with Governments on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation opened on Tuesday at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) where a parallel Senior Officials' Meeting for the Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development (SNAMMM) is being held.

The Philippines is hosting the SNAMMM - the second biggest gathering in Manila of high-level government representatives, second only to the Ministerial Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1979 - from March 16 to 18.

Over 120 delegations from 118 NAM member states are attending the SNAMMM, headed by Ministers and Special Envoys.

Upon the initiative of the Philippines, this is the first time that NAM is holding a parallel civil society event on the subject of interfaith dialogue.

The one-day IWFC will complement the SNAMMM as civil society participants are expected to come up with their own recommendations to strengthen government-civil society cooperation in the promotion of interfaith dialogue. They will turn over their recommendations to Secretary Romulo at the workshop's closing session.

Among the speakers in the workshop are Dr. William Vendley of the New York-based World Conference of Religions for Peace; Prof. Ibrahim Saleh Al-Naimi of the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue; and Archbishop Fernando Capalla of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC).

"Between all of you present here today, I am sure your wealth of personal experiences in the work of interfaith dialogue will bring about a lot of fresh ideas on how we - governments and civil society - can work better together in promoting the cause of peace," Romulo added.

He also stressed that interfaith dialogue in the Philippines originated from civil society and that it was only much later, particularly in the 1990s, that the Government caught on with the idea.

The onset of conflict in Mindanao highlighted the need for genuine dialogue among different faiths and cultures that have taken root in the island.

Through the years, the Philippine Government has worked closely with various faith-based groups including the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference, the PACEM (or the Program Aimed at Christian Education about Muslims), and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and its Episcopal Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue.

One of the main highlights or high points of the Philippine interfaith dialogue experience is the BUC which had its inaugural dialogue in November 2006.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo described the BUC as the Philippines' advocated format as well as being an important element of the on-going peace process between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"I believe that the peace process in Mindanao has moved forward because of, among other things, the government's exercise of soft power in cooperation with civil society partners in the region. The Government understands that more than guns the situation in Mindanao can only be solved through genuine dialogue and cooperation among the different groups that call the island home and that the economic development of Mindanao dramatically hinges on the establishment of a lasting peace," Romulo added. (PNA) [top]

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