Silsilah, from Mindanao to Thailand : An Experience of Dialogue through the Silsilah Dialogue Movement

I stand before you to express my gratitude to you all, for the countless blessings that God – the Creator has allowed me to experience. Indeed, the Silsilah Dialogue Movement (SDM) is a gift to my life as a Filipino Marist priest. It has opened me a space and opportunity to understand and experience what it means to be with others in my religion. The movement has brought many graceful people who have taught and shown me the meaning of the spirituality of life in dialogue. What a privilege to be a member of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.

Perhaps, the most relevant questions I would like to ask this time are the following: Why am I still here, after 19 years of being part of the SDM, and 7 years as Christian Coordinator of the Silsilah Forum Davao? What has been sustaining my passion and energy for interreligious and intercultural dialogue? Yes, I am aware that there are still many questions to ask, but we will leave them for the next opportunity. Undoubtedly, you have some answers to my questions, especially the people with whom I have journeyed and worked with closely over the years. But, I have my own responses to the questions I have mentioned earlier.

Why I am still here, and what has been sustaining my passion and energy for IRD and ICD are questions that demand reflective responses. In my humble reflection, it is the spirituality of life-in-dialogue that has been inspiring and moving me to continue – Padayon. It is the spirituality of the Silsilah that keeps inviting me and leading me to keep going, even when the journey is tough and rough. I have to be honest with you my Fellow Pilgrims of Dialogue that I always find it difficult to understand the meaning of spirituality. Perhaps, for those of you who are well-matured, like Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, the meaning of spirituality is not difficult to understand, but to me, it is.

However, as I continue my journey, I am beginning to understand that spirituality is about my personal religious experience. Something about a transforming experience that continues to inspire me, especially when things get a bit messy and out of my control. But, the moment that I start to remember my personal religious experience, there seems to be something that moves me to get up and continue the journey. In our Catholic tradition we call this a life-move by the Holy Spirit. There seems to be a fire within the depths of my being that keeps saying to me ‘come Larry you can do it.’ It is like a voice from within that is uttering, ‘yes you can continue to be a witness of life in dialogue even in places where context is complex, and where doors seem to be closed’ (Pope Francis).

This is my simple understanding of spirituality – a life-move by my personal religious experience. Remember, that in our religious experience, God speaks to us dialogically. This means that He speaks to us about the four pillars of dialogue. He reminds us about our relationship with Him, with ourselves, with others and with creation. For those who do not belong to any particular religious affiliation, they call it a personal experience which helps them to face the challenges in life.

The spirituality of life in dialogue is what has kept me going over the last 19 years. This personal religious experience I have experienced in Silsilah – the ongoing engagement with you my Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters is what keeps me going, that when I relate to you “I discover my being a person” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). That when I continue to relate to you regardless of your cultural and religious affiliations I also continue to discover my giftedness and potentials. This is what it means to dialogue for me now. This is my experience in the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, in the Silsilah Forum and in my ordinary day to day life.

As I go to Ranong, Thailand for my new mission assignment, I would like to ask for your prayers and support. I am aware that it is not going to be easy for me. But, I am confident that your prayers will give me energy and the passion to live out and promote the spirituality of life in dialogue. I would like to ask Fr. Seb and Ate Minda if they could still give a little space for Thailand in the House of the Nations. I will always carry Silsilah and all of you in my heart, as I set out on my new mission in Thailand. I am aware that I am only participating in the Mission and work of God, the Creator. I am only a participant and instrument of God’s mission.

Let us continue the journey with passion, courage and hope. Life in dialogue is possible and it’s happening now.

-Fr. Hermes “Larry” Sabud-

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