A Silsilah Way to Promote Dialogue and Peace in Basilan
In the midst of so many alarming news of radicalism and terrorism in Mindanao and other parts of the world, Silsilah invites all to move with determination in promoting dialogue and peace through education and formation and share our lives in solidarity with those who suffer most. With this spirit the Movement maintains groups and centers in many parts of Mindanao and Manila through the Silsilah Forums formed by Muslim and Christian Silsilah Alumni and others who wish to be part of this experience articulated in different forms.
In Basilan, Silsilah has a special presence with a Center and a group of respected Muslims and Christian leaders who, together, form the Inter Faith Council of Leaders ( IFCL) Basilan. The leaders of IFCL are the top religious leaders of Basilan among the Catholics, the protestant pastors and the Muslims. The last experience of the activities of Silsilah in Basilan was a formation program for teachers of Islamic schools called “Madaris Gurus”. This program is not new in Silsilah. From time to time Silsilah invites madaris gurus and catechists together to build friendship, to know more about dialogue and the Culture of Dialogue and encourage them to teach according to their own religion and program, but in a dialogical way. Considering that there are many prejudices among our people, Muslims and Christians, the religious teachers can help to remove prejudices or aggravate them. It is in their way of teaching that the students can become people of peace or perpetuate the prejudice that are the entry points to violence.
From September 10 to 13, a group of madaris gurus, men and women, were with us in Harmony Village in Zamboanga to attend a formation program. It was only for them because this was the request of the IFCL Basilan who observed how, in some Islamic schools in Basilan, some Muslims try to contact the madaris gurus presenting to the madaris gurus radical ways of teaching that is often the entry point of violence. At this time when the “fever” of IS (Islamic State) coming from Iraq is being circulated also in Basilan and other parts of Mindanao, a good number of leaders, including Muslim religious leaders, are alarmed and try to find ways to promote peace through the correct way to teach Islam. For this reason, Silsilah was invited to help.
The group arrived in Harmony Village in the morning of September 10. Most of the teachers where sent by the DepEd (Department of Education) of Basilan because the teachers/madaris gurus are part of a DepEd program. The seminar workshop was contacted by Ustadh Garson A. Hamja, teacher of the Silsilah Madrasa, with the help of other resource persons: Ustadh Abdulla Ibrahim, Director of the Silsilah Madrasa, Prof. Siddique Abdel Azcem Muhammad, teacher of the College of Asian and Islamic Studies of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) and Aminda E. Sano, President of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.
The sharing was open and friendly. Gradually the participants were introduced to the concept of the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peaceand to the dialogical teaching in madaris schools. These inputs help them to understand more the importance to harmonize the curriculum and the methodology to form good Muslims and good citizens. The participants were also informed of the curriculum and methodology of Islamic teaching in WMSU. A special topic was the presentation of the Culture of Dialogue that Silsilah promotes, the presentation of the open letter “the Common Word” of 138 Muslim scholars of the world who wrote in 2007 to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders of the world. In this letter it is emphasized the importance for Muslims and Christians to work together for peace in the world, starting from the concept of the Love of God and the love of neighbor in Islam and Christianity. Another special topic was a presentation of the concept of the “great Jihad” that promotes the spiritual journey of purification, a concept quite different from the normal use of the word “Jihad”. The sharing was open and friendly and the participants returned to Basilan determined to apply what they had learned in Silsilah.
There are those who have a very negative knowledge of Basilan, often considered the place of the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group well known around the world. Meanwhile we know the reality of violence, kidnapping and other forms of criminality in Basilan. We reaffirm that there are many respected Muslims and Christian leaders in Basilan who are sincere in their commitment for peace. And the group of madaris gurus who were invited to Harmony Village was a sign of hope. We salute them and we pray that with other good Muslim and Christian leaders of Basilan they can overcome “fear”. A fear expressed often with silence. Inspite of the visible fear also in the sharing of the madaris gurus activity done in Harmony Village, there is so much hope in Basilan and the experience of the last September madaris gurus activity is an affirmation of this hope.
Silsilah is in solidarity with those who suffer violence in the world, in a special way now in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile we do not forget the violence in our midst, including the painful experiences of violence in Basilan, against all, especially against the Christians. We know that violence calls for more violence. Meanwhile, the long way of dialogue is a hope if dialogue is sincere and not used as a “strategy”. Dialogue is the way of peace only when it becomes a deeper experience of love and respect of different cultures and religions giving special attention to the less privileged. This is the Silsilah way of solidarity, peace and development.