Sunday, 20 May 2012 00:00
The idea had been in gestation since he went through certain experiences in his missionary assignment in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. In the intervening years he became more convinced that this was an idea God wanted him to carry out. With the encouragement of Christian and Muslim friends, the Silsilah Dialogue Movement was established on May 9, 1984. The date happened to be the 42nd birthday of Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME known from then on as the Founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.
In thanksgiving for the many blessings received from God over the years, a joyous celebration took place on May 9, 2012 - the 28th founding anniversary of Silsilah and the 70th birthday of Fr. Sebastiano.
Although it was a working day many members of Silsilah and its affiliate groups, friends and supporters, and participants of the Silsilah Basic Summer Course gathered at the Auditorium in Harmony Village. Each in their own way the numbers in the program expressed felicitations for the two occasions or reported to the audience significant activities of Silsilah in the preceding months of 2012.
A video presentation produced by the Media Center staff of Silsilah had friends of Fr. Sebastiano expressing their birthday wishes for him. Fr. Seb came to the Philippines in 1977 and except for 2 years he spent in studies in Rome in the early 80’s he has been in the country all these years. All of these years have been in moving the cause of Muslim-Christian dialogue ever forward in the hope of attaining peace and solidarity among Muslims and Christians.
And informative video was also presented documenting a big project in February 2012 to mark the Interfaith Harmony Week as promulgated by the United Nations. In cooperation with the Zamboanga City chapter of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, three universities, the Office of the Zamboanga City Mayor, a number of regional offices of national government agencies and some other groups the Silsilah Dialogue Movement organized activities which took place during the week of February 1 to 7, 2012. The activities involved local (barangay) government officials, media practitioners, students, the art community. It was the first time that such an undertaking took place and clearly proved that people of goodwill, regardless of religious background, can work together to achieve good for the community.
The program at the auditorium sought to allow the different groups associated with Silsilah to express their felicitations in their own particular way. A dance number from the SilPeace group which was having their annual summer youth camp at the time entertained the audience. The women from Padayon sang several songs and the presentation ended with Fr. Sebastiano dancing a waltz on stage with one of the women.
The audience was also reminded of Silsilah’s Orphan’s Care Project when two young boys, beneficiaries of the project, came on stage to express their thanks to Silsilah and Fr. Sebastiano for the benefits they have enjoyed under this project.
It was a long morning which ended in everyone being invited to a simple lunch. We can only say “This time again, next year.”
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