The five-time former speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines said in an interview recently that he is taking initiative by proposing the “revival of Shia-Sunni interfaith dialogue.”
The self-proclaimed “father of interfaith dialogue”, who introduced the topic to the United Nations in 2004, de Venecia sparked the idea when it was a “taboo” to bring up a religious issue at the United Nations addresses.
He believes in not just interfaith dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Buddhists, etc., but intrafaith dialogue among Muslims to bridge the gap and divisions among them.
The envoy opined that much of the conflict in the “Persian Gulf region” and part of “North Africa” stems from Sunni-Shia divide that could eventually “lead to destruction of the Middle East.”
“Conflicts in Libya, in Yemen, in part of Jordan and Lebanon and South Asia” come from the Sunni-Shia conflict, he noted.
The former speaker said by leaving the Middle East, ISIS is moving to South Asia, Central Asia and now to South East Asia where his country the Philippines is situated.
In June 2017, a group of pro-ISIS militants attacked and took control of parts of the southern Philippine city of Marawi where over 1,000 people were killed in the siege.
It was only after five-long months, in October, that the Philippine government was able to regain control of the city which was left in heavy damages, rubbles and ruins.
The envoy stressed that unless genuine peace is implemented in Arabian Peninsula, the region won’t ever be in peace.
“But we must try, and try and try until it [peace] happens.”
De Venecia is hoping to join hands with former Iranian Majlis speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri in bringing the interfaith dialogue a step closer to reality.
A project that perhaps is calling on all Muslims around the world to play a part in.
The former speaker of the House of Representatives, who doesn’t have just a hand in politics but in economics too, praised Iran’s contribution to industrialization, saying, “Iran plays a major role in industrialization by bringing regions together.”
Describing Iran as “Asia”, Duterte's special envoy further noted the world is very proud of “Old Persian Empire.”