Promoting Dialogue and Peace in Mindanao through Madaris Gurus and Catechists

Circa 2013 at Xavier High School, Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay

The new conflict in Mindanao that started last May 23 in Marawi    is becoming one of the most challenging problems in the recent history of the Philippines. The high number of victims, the destruction of the city, the people who have been forced to leave their houses, the martial law, the   fear and hatred among groups and clans and the increasing religious radicalism with violence   urge all of us to move with more courage and creativity.

Why so much violence and what will be the future of Mindanao with all the negative signs of today and  what to do to dream again the future peace in Mindanao?”


Circa 2013 at Xavier High School, Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay

These questions have challenged the Silsilah Dialogue Movement to do more in many ways in the past and now especially through the program called: “ Madaris Gurus and Catechists.
In the past years many teachers of Madaris (plural of Madrasa) and the catechists of Zamboanga, Basilan, Jolo, Davao and other places have benefited by this program of Silsilah. This is a special training to gather together madaris gurus and catechists of a certain area, by groups, inviting them to live together for a few days to build respect, trust, friendship and   teach them the concept of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Guided by this spirit they are invited to teach parts of their lesson in the spirit of dialogue.

To achieve this goal they will be guided to learn more about the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace.  For us this is a spirituality that has to be first  experienced on the personal level  to be effective on the social level. Thus, we teach  the participants dialogue  with God, with the self, with others and with creation according to to his own religion.  This includes also dialogue  in  families, communities, in the same religion and  in all aspects of life. For this reason we usually  include in the  teaching of the Culture of Dialogue the concept of personal and social transformation and what normally is presented as intra and inter religious dialogue.

Circa 2013 at Xavier High School, Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay

Our experience is that after these trainings   most of the participants  start to  be more dialogical among  themselves, not only in school, but also in  society. A touching experience among the many is what  the madaris gurus of Jolo shared with us on one occasion.  Jolo is a land of conflict  and the presence of the Christians is   less than  5%. Many Christians  have left  especially in recent years for the many acts of violence and kidnappings where  the victims are especially Christians.  The  positive  story is that  after the  training in Silsilah the  madaris gurus and the catechists  start to become friends and  when they meet in the market area or other places they smile and greet each other. This is  also the experience of other  participants in other areas and this can be considered  positive stories  and  signs of hope.

The  conflict in Marawi has opened    the eyes of many to a reality that in the past military and other leaders used to deny.  It is already  open news for all and the sad experience of  the increasing  conflict  justified by an increasing  intolerance of the part of  the more  radical  groups. They now do not only go against the Christians, but also against  Muslims  who are not like them and with the same orientation.  Some of the Muslims   are considered “ Kafir” ( infidel) by those who claim to be Muslims  but not of the same orientation .

Circa 2013 at Xavier High School, Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay

This  reality  can not be denied any more. All now know  about the ISIS/Maute group present in Mindanao and other groups who are not so  well known yet, but are  also dangerous.
In addition to this  training, Silsilah  will also intensify other programs especially  in schools in  collaboration  with   youth leaders and groups willing to share the spirit of dialogue and peace that Silsilah promotes. This  plan will start from Zamboanga and will reach  many others, especially in all the areas where Silsilah is present  with groups called SILSILAH FORUM.  At present  the active  Silsilah Forum areas are in Tawi-Tawi, Siasi, Jolo, Basilan, Sibugay, Pagadian,  Cotabato, Kidapawan, Davao, Manila, Antipolo and other places where the groups are at the first stage of growth.

It is our desire and hope to  identify among the madaris gurus and catechists those who  are willing to join  Silsilah to  share this experience  and become  Instruments of dialogue and peace in our society.


Circa 2013 at Xavier High School, Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay

We can not deny that  we continue our mission  with  sadness considering that  in spite of our  efforts and the efforts of many others  for dialogue and peace in Mindanao   there are  still many  victims of  violence. There are those who get discouraged  but for us who have   experienced in the past  also  the pain of  other friends who have been killed in their mission of dialogue and peace, we  are  renewed by God’s presence and the  spirit of  Padayon ( move on) and continue to  move and encourage all  to continue to   dream  for a future real and sincere  peace in Mindanao.



(This article is courtesy of Silsilah Dialogue Movement. Thank you Silsilah for faithfully sending me newsletters about our interfaith movement. – Fr. Felmar Castrodes Fiel, SVD)



Rest in Peace, Archbishop Carmelo Morelos

REST IN PEACE, Archbishop Carmelo Morelos!!!
(December 11, 1930 – September 17, 2016)
Ordained priest: April 3, 1954
Ordained bishop: July 5, 1967
Archbishop of Zamboanga: 1994-2006


(Photo Credit: Zamboanga.Net)

(Photo Credit: Zamboanga.Net)

When I posted the photo above in my facebook account, Archbishop Socrates Villegas have very good words for Bishop Morelos:

He (Bishop Carmelo Morelos) was a zealous and prudent bishop. His sense of humor and his practical wisdom endeared him to so many bishops, priests, nuns and laity. Having been a former CBCP President, he led the bishops with his exceptional intelligence and unique insights. We have a new saint in heaven.”



Silsilah Summer 2016: An Answer to Violence and a Sign of Hope

Photo Caption: Silsilah Interfaith Dialogue

Photo Caption: Silsilah Interfaith Dialogue

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.


For more details: Silsilah Dialogue Movement