The Week That Was for Silsilah | May 25, 2011 |

Things begin, and things end. On April 24, 2011 the 25th offering of the Silsilah Basic Course on Muslim-Christian Dialogue began with 30 participants.

Most of the participants were from the Philippines but there were 2 participants from Vietnam and 2 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These Vietnamese and Congolese participants are all in Catholic religious life ( as are 17 others) and joined the course to know more about Islam and about dialogue, to be more effective and more in touch in the work that they will do with people of different cultures and religious traditions back in their home countries.

The culminating program and the lunch that capped May 20, the closing day of the Basic Course, were also attended by the foster families with whom the Basic Course participants had their immersion experience for a week-end. One can only imagine the impact on developing goodwill and understanding when a Filipino Muslim family welcomes into their home a Congolese seminarian who very likely is meeting such a family (Filipino and Muslim) for the first time. The encounter is at the human, cultural and religious levels. It is not a bromide to say that one can hardly feel enmity towards someone we have “broken bread” with.

On the afternoon of the same day, May 20, a different group of Silsilah members and friends came together in Sta. Catalina for the blessing of the new Padayon Center and the house for the Emmaus Dialogue Community (EDC). It will be recalled that in April 2010 a fire burned down these two structures within the same compound. No one was hurt in the fire but three members of the EDC lost all of their personal belongings to the flames. As one of them recalled, the fire took place during the very hours when the Archdiocese of Zamboanga was in jubilation, celebrating its 100th Anniversary as a diocese in the Philippine Church. Msgr. Peter Garces presided over the simple blessing rites.

The Padayon Center is where the EDC conducts its work for the residents of Sta. Catalina: running a kindergarten for the children of the community, teaching livelihood skills to the women and promoting dialogue and understanding between and among the Muslim and Christian residents. Some of the kindergarten students sang a very meaningful song during the short program after the blessing.

From the ashes of the 2010 fire there now stands a handsome structure which can serve the needs of the Padayon Center and which can also be used for meetings of groups in the Sta. Catalina community. Funds for the new structures were solicited by Fr. Sebastian D’Ambra, PIME, from friends and family in Italy.

Monday, May 23 is the opening of the Silsilah Special Course on the theme “The Mindanao Conflict:  Multiple Perspectives of the Problem and the Need for a Common Articulation of the Solution”. Resource speakers on the theme have been carefully chosen for their wide knowledge and perspective on the topics that will be covered. This will be written up in next week’s edition of the Oasis Page.

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