By Apolinario Villalobos
Man as a thinking being need not be prodded to understand what are happening around him. The intelligence innate in him is supposed tell him what is good and what is bad. Exception to this, however, are those who are clinically declared insane, as their rational perception is practically incapacitated. In this regard, there is no reason why man would not be able to understand his fellowmen regardless of their religious affiliation, as it has always been alleged that no religion is bad. Also, there is no reason why men should hate each other because of religious affiliation. Faith-based wars should belong to the past. Today, subtle persuasion is being used in enticing others to join a certain religion, sect or cult.
In the Philippines, because of the alleged belief that Christianity came later than Islam, the movement of the latter is called “Balik-Islam” (Return to Islam). Historically, long before the Spanish Christian missionaries came to the archipelago, the ancestors of the Filipinos have been worshipping idols and major settlements, including Manila, were already under the control of “lakans” and “datus”. Islamic faith came into the Philippines via the southern gateway, particularly Jolo. But despite such situation, the cross prevailed, that is why, the Philippines has a special place in the “heart” of Vatican, for its unfaltering Catholic faith in the midst of Asia where other major religions and sects proliferate.
Despite the bestowed honor as the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, the Filipinos should take heart in understanding other religions, cults, and sects that took root in other parts of the country. It should always be remembered that all religions and sects profess righteousness. A refined showcase of this advocacy is Quiapo district in the Manila City where the Golden Mosque of the Muslim Filipinos stands in its splendid glory side by side with the historic Quiapo Chuch, bastion of Filipinos’ Catholic faith, without any hitch. The call of the muezzin echoed from the minaret of the mosque alternates with peals of bells from the belfry of the Catholic Church. During religious festivity of the Black Nazarene (patron of Quiapo), the procession winds through the Islamic center, and during Muslim fasting holidays, the Islamic center opens its doors to the rest of Manilans. Even during Christmas, some homes of Muslims are decorated with lanterns and Christmas tree. Other religious groups that have taken root in the country aside from Islam and Catholicism are Iglesia ni Cristo, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Aglipayan, and different Protestant sects.
All over the world, religions with Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern origin compete with each other in the swelling of their membership. These are Hinduism (belief in life as a cycle), Jainism (belief in self-denial and austerity), Buddhism (belief in attaining perfect goodness and wisdom without a God), Taoism (belief in universal harmony and orderliness as manifestation of a divine will), Confucianism (belief in the achievement of peace and harmony in a society when each individual plays its role properly in every situation), Shintoism (worship of ancestral spirits).
On the other hand, Judaism is purported to be the basis of two major religions – Christianity and Islam. From its scriptures, the sinews of the two religions were developed, although, it was not smooth going for the two major religions as later on, the Catholic Church, founded on Christianity was polarized into the Latin-speaking group based in Rome and the Greek speaking East group based in Constantinople. The Reformation Movement further splintered the Christendom into several Protestant sects. The Islamic religion was not spared by the schism phenomenon, as it had its own travails with the death of its founder, Muhammad who did not leave a male heir . It brought forth the sect of Sunni which maintained the idea of elective leadership rather than choosing from the line of blood descent from the founder, and the sect of the Shiite that held on the basis of blood line for the selection of the successor.
An interesting offshoot of the Islamic-rooted religion is the Bahā’i Faith which specifically came from the Bābi religion from Iran and which broke away from the Shiite branch of Islam. The founder of the Babis was Mirza Ali Mohammad, who declared himself the rightly guided leader from the line of Mohammad. He was executed by the Iranian authorities in 1850, and thirteen years later, Mirza Hoseyn Ali Nuri, declared himself as the one foretold by the Bab (Mirza Ali Mohammad), and eventually, founded a new group, the Bahā’i Faith, after proclaiming himself, Baha’ Ullah. Its primary advocacy is world unity. Members of this group are non-political but believe in total obedience to the laws of the country where they live, and devote their time in community projects and other campaigns beneficial to the communities they belong. For them men and women are equal. Unlike other religions, their faith does not require rituals or clergy.
As all religions promote goodness, it should be reflected in their followers. Although, some religions are blatant in declaring their non-belief in God, the latter is still indirectly manifested in all their advocacies which are centered in righteousness. It is therefore just fair that all religions be viewed with respect and understanding for the sake of harmony and unity.