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A city of dialogue and solidarity

Abp. Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.

Pastoral Companion

CAGAYAN de Oro has been known as the City of Golden Friendship. It has hosted many national conventions. Even during the calamity of Typhoon Sendong in December 2011, government agencies, the private sector, and Civil Society organizations all pitched in to help the more than 10,000 displaced families. Lately, Cagayan de Oro was also recognized as the “most competitive” city in the country.

Yet, last week on July 26, the image of a peaceful and progressive city was clouded by the terroristic bombing in Kyla’s Bistro Restaurant, which killed eight persons and wounded more than 40 others. We condole with the bereaved relatives of the victims and join the call of all sectors to bring to justice whoever was responsible for such a senseless act of killing indiscriminately innocent people. We also encourage everyone to cooperate with authorities in resolving this heinous crime.

At the same time, we caution everyone from making rash pre-judgments against any particular group or individuals. We are told that Mindanao has a tri-people population—the indigenous people, Muslims, and Christians—which has been further blended across generations and ethnic traits. Mindanao is also the arena of several armed uprisings. The government is in the process of forging a lasting peace agreement with these warring groups. Cagayan de Oro itself is confronting the continuing challenges of poverty alleviation, urban housing needs, and environmental conservation.

            It is in this context that we enjoin everyone to promote a culture of dialogue and forge bonds of solidarity with one another. This call echoes the Pope’s message during the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro on July 23-28. I joined more than 600 bishops from around the world to attend the festive activities of this World Youth Day. It was in the middle of that week that I received the sad news of the bombing in Cagayan de Oro. Pope Francis’ message for constructive dialogue and solidarity was not only meant for the youth delegates in Rio. It has a special relevance for us in Cagayan de Oro at this time.

Dialogue implies the exchange of two words and listening carefully to the other party. It means allowing others to participate meaningfully in public affairs that affect them. It also means reaching out to people who have been marginalized—like many of the Typhoon Sendong families who were already living precariously on the margins of the riverbed.

Jesus Christ himself is our prime model of a man-in-dialogue. He was in constant dialogue with everyone he encountered—the blind man, the lepers, the Roman centurion, Nicodemus, Jairus, the Samaritan woman, and even Pontius Pilate.

Solidarity means a sense of oneness—that we are united as one human family that transcends ethnic and religious differences. A sense of solidarity is the opposite of exclusion. Today, the challenge in our nation-building is to include everyone in the development process. The gathering of three million people from all over the world in Rio de Janeiro was an extraordinary image of solidarity – not only for Catholics but also for all people searching for the presence of God in their lives.

Let this then be our call to action: to help build a better world through a culture of dialogue and a sense of solidarity with everyone in our community. One man’s death is our death. One man’s rise from poverty is our gain. Only then can we say that the victims of the bombing did not die in vain.

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