Coming together of IFCL-Basilan, a SIGN OF HOPE for 2011 | Feb 9, 2011

“When we start to dialogue it is a sign of hope”, these were the words that struck a chord in the hearts of members of the Inter-Faith Council of Leaders (IFCL)

of Basilan when they met on February 3, 2011 in the conference hall of Basilan State College in Isabela City, Basilan.

IFCL-Basilan is comprised of respected leaders in the community who represent the voices of different sectors like religious, academe, local government units, people’s organization, and business establishments. The regular gathering of IFCL- Basilan members is an effort to sustain each one’s commitment to work for peace through dialogue.

Over the years, the province of Basilan has experienced difficult situations attributed to lawless elements, causing fear and anxiety among the people. The experiences of violence, like kidnappings, bombings, firefights and the like, have also raised tensions between religious and cultural groups in the island province. Located across a narrow strait from Zamboanga City which is at the tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula in western Mindanao, Basilan is the homeland of the Yakans, one of a number of ethnic groups who follow Islam. The Yakans are noted for their traditional hand-woven fabrics of colorful and intricate geometric designs. Noted as well as for their elaborate weddings and festivals, they make up one-third of the population of Basilan Island.

Despite the richness of the culture and the natural resources of the province, peace has been elusive. Basileños long for peace, mutual respect and understanding within and among the groups, effective governance and a progressive Basilan. At present “the situation of Basilan is neither good nor bad”, as remarked by Chief Inspector Benito in his sharing to the group during the meeting. This equivocal statement evidently confirms the unstable situation of the place as far as peace and order is

concerned. Unfortunately, there are still kidnapping incidents in the province.
In every meeting of IFCL, the process of the acronym STEP (Sharing, Thinking, Experience and Prayer) is followed. During the sharing, Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, convenor of IFCL, tackled the basics of Culture of Dialogue and the concept of spirituality of life-in-dialogue as an approach for a sustainable peace. Members of the group themselves have expressed their frustrations and disappointments including Ustadz Bashir Ismael who said, “The roots of misunderstanding do not come from the priests and ulama … Dialogue must also be addressed to the politicians”.

Among the objectives of the IFCL one is to generate ideas and possible solutions and contribute to their implementation for the common good. These were some of possible concrete plans that IFCL-Basilan will undertake:

· To make a statement calling all the sectors including the military and religious to be united
· Integrate dialogue and its concepts in the schools’ academic programs so the students can understand and appreciate these
· Call for prayer rally or symbolic peace rally to convey the message of unity and peace, most especially for the victims of violence
· Sustainability of formation among the youth, thus IFCL will serve as the advisers who will guide the young people.

For IFCL Basilan, these recommendations and plans are signs of hope for them to achieve the elusive but possible peace through sincere dialogue.

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