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Filipino Priest Embraces Islam

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    Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam By Rexcel Sorza November 7, 2005 IOL Philippines Correspondent
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005
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      Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam
      By Rexcel Sorza
      November 7, 2005
      IOL Philippines Correspondent


      When Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari wanted Mindanao to secede and
      become an Islamic state, a Mindanao-born theologian and sociologist
      was among the first to rise and argue that the southern Philippine
      island is never home to Muslims alone.

      Catholic priest Estanislao Soria campaigned against the Moros'
      takeover of the whole of Mindanao. "I vehemently disagreed with Mr.
      Misuari. I campaigned against the Moro movement," said Soria, who used
      to be popularly known as "Father Stan."

      Soria did not want to argue without basis as he is an academic and
      theologian schooled in the Jesuit-run learning institutions.

      He embarked on a historical and sociological research to back his
      arguments. In the back of mind, though, was the thought of the need to
      convert Muslims to Christianity. This also brought him to read Islamic
      writings, and, quite surprisingly, lead him to revert to Islam.

      "As a linguist well-versed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, I thought I can
      learn Arabic that easily. I also wanted to translate Arabic writings
      into English as well as translate Western ideologies like
      existentialism into Arabic but I realized it was difficult," he told

      Soria believed that making Western writings available in Arabic would
      lead Muslims in Mindanao to appreciate Christianity more than Islam.
      "I wanted to open their minds to Christianity because I had heard a
      lot of negative things about the Muslims. I told myself they have to
      be educated."

      But in getting deep into his readings, Soria realized that persons
      considered as "Church fathers" such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, got their
      knowledge from Islamic readings and teachings; that many of the
      so-called Western ideologies and theologies have long been discussed
      in Islam.

      "[My readings] enlightened me that Western civilization's thoughts
      sprung from Islamic teachings. After reading more works of Islamic
      theologians, I strongly changed my views on Islam," he told

      Soria added, "I even realized that the Gospel of Barnabas is even more
      credible than the gospels of the four evangelists [included in the
      Christian Bible]." The Gospel of Barnabas is a work purporting to be a
      depiction of the life of Jesus by his disciple Barnabas. It is also
      considered to be pro-Islamic.

      He, too, found out through his sociological research that most of the
      negative things said of the Filipino Muslims were untrue. "They were
      not what they were stereotyped to be."

      In 2001, Soria, who had served as parish priest in various cities and
      towns in Metro Manila after taking his college and theology studies at
      Xavier University and Loyola School of Theology, both of the
      Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, reverted to Islam.

      He has since been known as Muhammad Soria, but many, including his
      Muslim friends, still call him "Father Stan."

      The 64-year-old Soria said his decision was met with condemnation and
      disgust by most of his relatives and former parishioners, an
      experience similar to what many of the Muslim reverts, locally known
      as Balik Islam, go through. This, however, did not deter him from
      leaving the priesthood after 14 years and embracing Islam.

      Soria is getting used to Islam, which to him is not only a religion
      but a way of life.

      He has gone on Hajj in Makkah five times already, being a member of
      the Islamic Da`wah Movement of the Philippines. He also married a
      24-year-old woman last year after living a celibate life as a priest.

      Soria said that if there is one thing that Muslims should learn from
      Christians, it is being organized. To him, having a structure would
      greatly help in spreading Islam as structure helped the Christians.

      For example, he said, Muslims should put up universities all over the
      globe, as Catholic missionaries did with their universities. Also,
      "why can't Islamic states produce preachers and do what the Christian
      missionaries did?" he asked.

      He further said there is a need to "intellectualize Islam through
      rationality" because by doing so the teachings embodied in the Qur'an
      would be better appreciated by people totally new to it.

      He is also ecstatic about the annual fast this Ramadan. He said he is
      again reminded of the sunrise to sundown fast's "spiritual value" in
      contrast to the Christian's dieting "which is too material or human."

      Soria said, "In Islam, we are taught that if you discipline your body
      the Creator would grant your wish." Harmony between Filipino Muslims
      and Filipino Christians in this largely Christian nation, amid the
      stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, is among the wishes he prays to
      be granted.

      Please feel free to contact the editor of My Journey to Islam at:
      Journeytoislam @ islam-online.net



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