In the midst of violence and injustice happening in Mindanaw, I sense healing energies embracing the people who are in the forefront of justice and peace advocacy. I’ve been encountering this breath of fresh air through the inspiring words of global leaders and through a series of meetings with civil society workers and leaders.

Debris inside the Jolo Cathedral where two bombs exploded last 27 January 2019. Handout photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Information Office (PIO) Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCON).

As I write this blog, my heart is still crying for the 18 people who were killed and the 82 who were wounded in two consecutive bomb explosions inside and at the front of Jolo Cathedral last Sunday, 27 January 2019 at 0840H PHT. I’m grateful that Bishop Efraim Tendero of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) have immediately issued a statement that hopefully would contribute to the ‘first-aid’ response towards a long-term healing process. He said: “WEA strongly condemn this evil act that runs against the peaceful teachings of both Islam and Christianity who both respect each other’s places of worship and prayer. WEA also continues to support the Mindanao Peace Process through Christian-Muslim inter-faith dialogue and cooperation. We prayerfully affirm the work of the Christian and Muslim peacebuilding advocates and field workers who have been advancing the cause of justice and peace for decades.”

In a statement, The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, said: “In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence.”

I’m praying right now for my sisters and brothers in Jolo, Sulu — both Christians and Muslims — who are standing in solidarity together to advance genuine justice and peace. Praying, crying, and shouting for justice with the loved-ones of those who were killed as well as of those who were wounded.

I’m especially praying for the Kapatut Bangsa Sug, Inc. — our justice and peace advocacy colleagues based in Jolo, Sulu. They said: “We, the Kapatut Bangsa Sug Inc. (Tausug Human Rights Defender), strongly and religiously condemn the recent (January 27, 2019) bombing in Jolo Cathedral (Jolo Church). This incident is indeed an act of Satan and outlaw elements. We would like also to extend our deepest and sincere condolences to the family of the victims and to all the Christian communities, and we would like you to know that we are on your side to find justice and truth for this unfavorable happening.”Al-Khalifa Jilah, Chairman

My friend, Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) shared his condemnation of this evil act: “There are craven scums and spoilers who vainly attempt to bring down their triumphant adversary with them — including harmless bystanders and civilians — as they go down and gasp in defeat. They will do anything to rob the luster off the success of the victorious and will not balk in snuffing out innocent lives even in their sacred places to parlay concessions amidst their imminent rout. This is the height of, nay, the nethermost depths of cowardice, treachery, greed, indecency and yes, evil.”

It seems that, a week earlier, the peacebuilding workers and human rights defenders were intentionally gathered and prepared to face the coming challenges in the next weeks and months to come resulting from such act of terrorism.

Last 23-25 January 2019, I was invited to participate in an event called “Healing the Past: Mindanaw Survivors Solidarity Assembly” in Davao City. It was a gathering of peacebuilders and human rights defenders in this island. The organizers discerned that “transitioning into a post-conflict era is to segue into the phase of dealing with the legacy of large-scale violence and armed conflict… we need to roll-up our sleeves once more since seeking justice and building peace are continuing tasks towards a sustainable future.” In this gathering, I experienced mutual appreciation of each other and mutual affirmation of our connection with each other as a healing community among peace advocates. I’m so inspired with this direction of our peace advocacy network.

We’re now entering into the Transitional Justice Phase of our peacebuilding work in Mindanaw.

I have this feeling, despite the forces of violence and their terrorizing activities, that our peace network’s solidarity and determination would continue to plant seeds of reconciliation in this land, characterized by a couple of paradoxical set of energizers — Truth & Love, Justice & Mercy.

Let me share with you some of those precious moments of our initial “healing-together-activities” so we can be also be funnels of healing to the wider society:

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