Silsilah Summer 2016: An Answer to Violence and a Sign of Hope
Summer time in the Philippines is changing. One reason is the present climate change we experience. Aside from this is the change being felt in our educational system. Schools and universities now apply the new schedule policies that make school openings in the month of August. Despite these changes, we here in the Silsilah Dialogue Movement still arrange our summer schedules coinciding with the months of April and May. We organize different activities especially here in Harmony Village, the home base of the movement for such activities and formation programs.
As a tradition, we conduct the Summer Course on Muslim-Christian Dialogue. It is one of the basic activities that has been conducted for over 20 years now in Harmony Village although it started in 1987, and conducted in the first 10 years in other places before we acquired the land now known as Harmony Village. We are happy that this year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of this program for Muslim-Christian Dialogue. We are grateful to many who have been helping us to maintain this formation program every year and we are happy that we have formed thousands of Muslim and Christian leaders from Mindanao and also from other regions in the Philippines and even other countries.
The Summer Course is divided into three parts: Basic Course, special Course, and the Intensive Course. The Basic Course usually runs for four weeks where participants will have the opportunity to study together the basic teachings of Islam and Christianity. The course also includes instructions for the Arabic language and specially the lessons of dialogue as a theory and practice. Participants in this course are sent for a family immersion during weekends. This is a special time in the week when Christian participants live with a Muslim family and Muslim participants live with a Christian family. After the Basic Course comes the Special Course, a week-long program wherein participants are presented with a special topic for the year. This year’s topic is centered on “The power of Social Media and the challenge to use it for Dialogue and Peace.” The last of these three courses is the Intensive Course. Like the special course, this is a week-long program where the basic teachings of Islam and Christianity are presented in a few days, integrating it with topics about dialogue. This also includes a day-long exposure in chosen areas in Zamboanga City.
We also continue this year the tradition to conduct a youth camp for young Muslims and Christians organized by the SilPeace, the youth group of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, committed to promote dialogue and peace. This activity is usually conducted in the upper part of Harmony Village where there is a camp site with a beautiful view overlooking the sea. This year, it will be conducted on May 10 to 15. From May 15 to 16, we will have a gathering of the coordinators of the Silsilah Forums spread in different cities in Mindanao including Luzon. At present, we have Silsilah Forums in Tawi-Tawi, Siasi, Jolo, Basilan, Sibugay, Pagadian, Davao, Kidapawan, Midsayap, Cagayan, Iligan, Marawi, Cotabato, Quiapo, and Antipolo. This experience is growing and this year, it will be strengthened because on May 17 – 20, we will have the Silsilah National Alumni Gathering 2016. This will be a gathering of those who have attended the different summer courses along the years as well as those who have attended the different trainings and formations conducted by Silsilah. On this occasion we can have a sharing of experience and support each other on how we can serve, as a sign of hope, in a society that is becoming more violent and divided and where the relation between Christians and Muslims is becoming more complicated because of international influences that promote radicalism specially among some groups who claim to do this in the name of Islam and therefore promoting violence in many parts of the world.
This alarming situation is a challenge for Silsilah to strengthen the collaboration among our members. We hope that this National Alumni Gathering will be a great opportunity where we can share positive stories of dialogue coming from the participants after attending the summer course that change their lives, promoting the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace convinced that this is one of the important ways to build a society where we see one another as brothers and sisters.