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A Silsilah Way to Promote Dialogue and Peace in Basilan


In the midst of so many alarming news of radicalism and terrorism in Mindanao and other parts of the world, Silsilah invites all to move with determination in promoting   dialogue and peace through education and formation and share our lives in solidarity with those who suffer most. With this spirit the Movement maintains groups and centers in many parts of Mindanao and Manila through the Silsilah Forums formed by Muslim and   Christian Silsilah Alumni and others who wish to be part of this experience   articulated in different forms.

In Basilan,  Silsilah has a special presence with  a Center and a  group of respected    Muslims and Christian leaders   who, together, form  the Inter Faith Council of Leaders ( IFCL) Basilan. The   leaders of IFCL are the top religious leaders of Basilan among the Catholics, the protestant pastors   and the Muslims. The last experience of the activities of Silsilah in Basilan was a formation program   for teachers of Islamic schools called “Madaris Gurus”.  This program is not new in Silsilah.  From time to time Silsilah invites   madaris gurus and catechists together to build friendship, to know more about dialogue and the Culture of Dialogue and encourage   them to teach according to their own religion and program, but in a dialogical way. Considering that   there are many prejudices among    our people, Muslims and Christians, the religious teachers can help to remove prejudices or aggravate them. It is in their way of teaching that the students can become people of peace or perpetuate the prejudice that are the entry points to violence.  

From September 10 to 13, a group of madaris gurus, men and women, were with us in Harmony Village in Zamboanga to attend a formation program.  It was only for  them  because  this was the request of the IFCL Basilan who  observed how,  in some  Islamic schools  in Basilan,    some  Muslims    try to  contact  the madaris gurus  presenting  to the madaris gurus  radical ways of teaching that  is often  the entry point of  violence.   At this time  when   the  “fever” of IS (Islamic  State) coming from Iraq is being circulated   also in Basilan and other parts  of Mindanao,  a good number of  leaders, including  Muslim religious leaders,  are alarmed and  try to find  ways to promote   peace  through  the correct  way to  teach  Islam. For this reason, Silsilah was invited to help.

The group arrived in Harmony Village in the morning of September 10. Most of the   teachers where sent by the DepEd (Department of Education) of Basilan because the teachers/madaris gurus are part of a  DepEd program.  The seminar workshop was contacted   by Ustadh Garson A. Hamja, teacher of the Silsilah Madrasa, with the help of other  resource persons:  Ustadh Abdulla Ibrahim, Director of the Silsilah Madrasa,   Prof. Siddique Abdel Azcem Muhammad, teacher of the  College of Asian and Islamic Studies of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) and Aminda E. Sano, President  of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.

The sharing was open and friendly.  Gradually the participants were introduced to the concept of the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peaceand   to the    dialogical teaching in madaris schools.  These inputs help  them to understand more  the importance to  harmonize the  curriculum  and the  methodology  to  form  good Muslims  and good citizens.  The participants were also informed   of the curriculum and methodology of Islamic teaching in WMSU. A special topic was the presentation of the Culture of Dialogue that Silsilah promotes, the presentation of the   open letter “the Common Word” of 138 Muslim scholars of the world who wrote in 2007 to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders of the world. In this letter  it is  emphasized  the importance for  Muslims  and  Christians to   work  together  for peace  in the world, starting from the concept of   the Love of God and the love of neighbor in Islam  and Christianity. Another special topic was a presentation of the concept of the “great Jihad” that promotes the spiritual journey of purification, a concept quite different from the normal use of the word “Jihad”.  The sharing was open and friendly and the participants returned to Basilan determined to apply what   they had learned in Silsilah.

There are those who   have a very negative knowledge of Basilan, often considered the place of the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group well known around the world.   Meanwhile we know the reality of violence, kidnapping and other forms of criminality in Basilan. We reaffirm that   there are many respected Muslims and Christian leaders in Basilan who are sincere in their commitment for peace. And the group of madaris gurus who were invited to Harmony Village was a sign of hope.  We salute them and we pray that with other   good Muslim and Christian leaders of Basilan they can overcome “fear”. A fear expressed often with silence.  Inspite of the  visible  fear  also  in the sharing of the  madaris gurus activity done in Harmony Village,  there is so much hope  in Basilan and the  experience  of the last  September madaris gurus activity  is  an affirmation of this  hope.

Silsilah is in solidarity with those who suffer violence in the world, in a special way now in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile we do not forget the violence in our midst, including the painful experiences of violence in Basilan, against all, especially against the Christians.  We know that violence calls for more violence. Meanwhile, the   long way   of dialogue is a hope if   dialogue is sincere and not used as a “strategy”. Dialogue is   the way of peace only when it becomes a   deeper experience of love and respect of different cultures and religions giving special attention to the less privileged. This is the Silsilah way of solidarity, peace and development.   

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