On October 20-22, 2009, 24 catechist and 22 madaris gurus coming from different areas in the province of Basilan came to Harmony Village in Zamboanga City for a seminar-workshop on dialogue and peace. Two focal aims of the seminar were to build friendship among the participants and to make them aware of the recent dialogue efforts between Muslim and Christian religious leaders and scholars as expressed through the open letter “A Common Word Between Us and You”.  The letter, written by 138 Muslim scholars and addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and leaders of other Christian religions, came out in October 2007. The letter states that the foundation for dialogue and peace among the three great monotheistic religions has been laid in the common call in the Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah to the commandment to “love God and love the neighbor”.

Since the letter came out in 2007 the Silsilah Dialogue Movement has endeavored to spread the contents of the letter among people of different faiths. The letter’s call to the commandment to love God and to love the neighbor is a challenge of particular import at this time when people who claim to love God act in such a manner as to negate love for the neighbor.

The gurus in the madaris and the catechists in their classes are in the front lines for teaching Islam and Christianity to the young members of   their respective religions.  Silsilah, through the Interfaith Council of Leaders (IFCL), has given premium to the formation and development of these teachers by way of seminars and workshops on topics that promote dialogue and peace.

The letter on the Common Word is a document that teachers of any religion, but especially those who teach Islam and Christianity, should know and understand.  Thus, the reason for organizing the seminar for madaris gurus and catechists.

Fr.Sebastiano D’Ambra,PIME, founder of Silsilah,  and Ustadz Abdullah Ebrahim, Director of Silsilah Madrasah (Arabic School),   gave talks  on the Christian mission and the Islamic dawa, respectively.  After the presentations the seminar participants engaged in an open forum,asking questions and sharing insights evoked by the topics that they heard from the two speakers. A lively interaction and thought provoking queries came out in a round table discussion on the “Challenge of Interreligious Dialogue: Recent

Documents on Christian-Muslim Dialogue”.  The panelists of the discussion were Ustadz Abdul-Mu’min Mujahid, Vice-Chairman of the Ulama League of the Philippines, Dr. Estrella Macrohon, Catechist Coordinator of the West Vicariate and Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME.

Silsilah, as a movement promoting Muslim-Christian dialogue in this part of Mindanao, challenged the religious educators to be models to their young students while educating them on the concept and practice of the love of God and love of neighbor according to the fundamental teachings of Islam and Christianity, and together build a society which works for the good of all. At the end of the seminar, Muslim and Christian participants of Basilan committed to echo the same activity to other Madaris gurus and Catechists in their place and integrate the spirituality of dialogue in their own religious teachings.

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