An article published in Philippine newspaper the Daily Inquirer, entitled “Biblical” or “Buddhist” in the Mindanao, has brought back to the forefront the issue of religious tolerance in the island nation.
“In the Philippines, we’re still practicing what we’ve practiced for thousands of years.
We have Christians, we have Muslims, we do have Buddhists.
We don’t have a problem with it.
What we do not have is tolerance for people of any religion, even if they’re Buddhists,” said Marielle Hintun, an international affairs professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“This article, though, really goes to the heart of the issue.
And it’s something that I think all Filipinos, not just the Buddhists, have to think about,” Hintuns statement added.
The article was published in the newspaper after the death of its editor-in-chief, Jadson T. Vila.
Villa was the first editor-at-large to be fired in the Philippine education system since the country was re-established as a republic in 1959.
In the article, Vila says that the Philippines is one of the most “Christian” countries in the world and it is due to the efforts of a small number of people who are trying to “save the Philippines.”
He goes on to cite a number of figures, including the late Pope John Paul II, who was a staunch supporter of Christianity and who also supported the Philippines’ secularization during his time in office.
“If I can be honest, I think that most Filipinos think that Christianity is just a little bit of a religious concept, that it’s not really Christian at all.
That’s really a misunderstanding,” said Hintunny.
“It’s actually an incredibly positive thing.
There’s so much hope for the future and hope for education in the country.
So I think this is a very positive and important step for the country.”
But some critics have taken to social media to call the article a “Bollywood-style religious satire.”
“We don’t want to talk about religion in this country.
We do not want to be the country where you have a country where everybody’s a believer,” said Christian Lopez, an independent writer who writes on education.
“We just want to live in a country that is a better place, a better nation.”
“I don’t think the pope would ever want us to be like Indonesia.
I don’t know how he would react to a country like that.
And if the Pope was here, I doubt he would even have the courage to criticize this,” said Lopez.
“But if this is true, then it’s very disturbing that the Pope is a fan of this particular form of religion.
I think it’s pretty much the antithesis of what our country should be.”
Vila’s dismissal drew criticism from human rights groups, with the International Union for Human Rights condemning the decision and accusing Vila of “sending a message of intolerance and discrimination.”
“The pope is not an impartial arbiter.
He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is a political movement,” said Ihor Sibeko, the IOHR’s director of the Asia Division.
“The pope’s silence on the issue should have sent a very clear message to all governments, including our own, that they must respect human rights.”
“This is a situation where a small group of people can create a climate that allows the denial of human rights,” he added.