Philippines university works to promote religious understanding

By Ecumenical News International
September 28, 2009

A northern Philippines Roman Catholic university has again set aside a week to teach all of its students about different faiths - writes Maurice Malanes.

Religion studies professor, Reynaldo Dumpayan, said the project aims to provide, "building blocks for world peace and understanding".

"Many hostilities and conflicts in our country and elsewhere have religious underpinnings but each of the various faiths can come together and lay out the building blocks for world peace and understanding through dialogue," Dumpayan, the head of the religion department of Saint Louis University in Baguio City, told Ecumenical News International.

Since 2006, the university has held an annual event to promote interfaith dialogue.

This year from 21 to 25 September 2009, the university's more than 26,000 students have been asking questions about various faiths and holding discussions with members of religious groups invited to share their beliefs and philosophies.

"The activity has proved productive as it has enabled our dominantly Roman Catholic students to learn first hand what we share in common with other faiths and religions," Dumpayan told ENI.

Civil engineering first year student Rudyn Lyra Golitod agreed with Dumpayan. From her meetings with representatives of various faiths, she said she had learnt that all of them stressed, "uniting humanity and saving souls from what divides us".

Dumpayan said hostilities and animosities often arose from stereotypes of, and prejudices about, other faiths and cultures. This, he added, was commonplace in any multi-cultural setting such as the mountain city of Baguio with its 400,000 people.

Taking part in the university's interfaith week are representatives from Buddhism, the Baha'i faith, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, indigenous spirituality, and other groups such as the International Krishna Consciousness movement, Brahma Kumaris, Echankar, Ageless Wisdom, and The Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormons).

"This interfaith encounter is definitely a constructive way of promoting unity, which comes only when we have a common understanding," Felipe Reyes, a Brahma Kumaris spokesperson, told ENI. He believed the Catholic university-organized week was, "a significant step forward in the search for the unity of the various faiths and religions."

The population of the Philippines is around 97 million people of whom about 81 per cent are Roman Catholics.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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