A missionary who served Muslims and Christians

 On August 28, Fr Rufus Halley, an Irish missionary, my classmate and friend, was brutally murdered by armed men in Mindanao where he had served both the Christian and Muslim communities for over 30 years. We were ordained priests together and sent to the Philippines to help heal the wounds brought about by social injustice and the hunger and pain of poverty that afflicted both the Christians and Muslim communities. His life work contains a lesson for us all in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States. Rufus was a man of peace. His special work was to help heal the divisions between the Muslim community and the Christians in his parish. For a short while he took a job as a shop assistant to a Muslim family in the public market in order to get to know the Muslim people and their culture. They came to respect and understand him. He became a centre of reconciliation. He saw the deep conflicts between the communities of different faiths and realised that it was not a war of religion but an economic war that divided the communities and set one against the other. Fr Rufus gave his life for his friends, both Christians and Muslims. He told me that the greatest honour of his life was when two Muslim families had asked him, a Christian priest, to act as a mediator and peacemaker in a family feud that had left 20 people dead. He was successful and peace was made between these families. He taught that social and economic justice, dialogue and reconciliation, was the way to justice and peace. He rejected war, violence, retaliation and revenge seeking as a way for civilised people of spiritual dignity to resolve conflicts and injustice. When his body lay in state in the Christian church, for the first time in the history of Mindanao, thousands of Muslim entered the church to pay their respects and leave flowers. On the road they threw flowers before his coffin. And so all of us must strive to put aside hatred for others and seek justice and reconciliation especially when there is conflict between communities and nations of different faiths. No one will ever forget the terrible acts of violence and mass murder and terror in America. They are acts of blind hatred and desperation. They arise from deep anger at the injustice suffered by those deprived of what is rightfully theirs. We must try to understand the root causes of such fanatical acts of violence that cause untold suffering and death, we must seek justice for the victims. These violent acts can never be condoned, overlooked and they are evil deeds that cry out for justice. But more and greater acts of violence and revenge will not end this cycle of killing. What Fr Rufus did was to start a dialogue. An honest heart to heart frank assessment of the causes of injustice and a resolve to but it right. Only then can the anger of the oppressed be assuaged and claimed. Justice to the oppressed must be done on a global scale. Poverty at such a monumental scale cannot be allowed to continue in a world of power and plenty. Seeking justice, not seeking revenge is the way to peace and an end to terrorism. Revenge and retaliation against innocent people will only maim and kill more innocent people. Revenge attacks can do no good, bring no peace. They will sow the seeds of greater hatred cycle of violence. We have seen in the past month the terrible consequence of hatred and fanatical revenge seeking. We must not let this fanaticism of a tiny group sow discrimination and bitterness among people of different faiths. We must come together in unity and a shared belief in the divine dignity of the human person. We must stand together respecting each other and recognise that ALL people, of all nations and all faiths, have the same and equal right to life, justice and a life of dignity free from poverty and injustice. This is our hope and our prayer. source: Preda Foundation, Olangapo, Philippines

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