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)

 

Peace, my Dream. Courage Marawi

Text and Photo Credit: Nor Asiah Madale Adilao, Silsilah Forum Davao Coordinator

In the midst of the realities of violence, we have people both Muslims and Christians who are willing to help. This is the other side of Marawi that we need to highlight. Regardless of religions and tribes people are helping one another to creatively respond to the needs of those who are affected by the siege.

This conviction led the Silsilah Forum Davao to initiate Stress Debriefing moments for adults and Play Therapy time for children who have been exposed to the armed conflict in Marawi City. The initiative is in partnership with the Dominican Fathers-Philippines and committed volunteers from Davao City and Marawi. The Eleven LID Team Volunteers journeyed from Davao to Iligan City on June 27, 2017. In the evening, we had an orientation at the Catholic Campus Center Ministry (CCCM) to prepare the team for the following day’s activities. The LID Team was accommodated whole-heartedly and generously at the CCCM.


On June 28, 2017, the Life in Dialogue (LID) Team and volunteers facilitated the Story Telling sessions and Play Therapy at the Barangay Santiago Covered Court, Iligan City. The theme of the sessions was “Peace, my Dream.” It was a gathering of hope, courage and gratitude to Allah for the gift of children. There were about 350 Internally Displaced People who participated in the gathering.


The programme started with an emotional atmosphere, because the people remembered the destruction of their beloved place, Marawi. Then, the Harmony prayer in Maranao version was recited. During the morning programme, the adult evacuees were gathered into ten groups. The sharing of the group was focused and guided by the question: “What is my dream for the future?” We were grateful because they shared their experiences and dreams, and participated in the whole process.


It was a heart-breaking experience listening to the difficulties and what the evacuees had gone through when the attack in Marawi started. Their common sharing expressed that they want to go home to Marawi. It is our desire too that the telling of stories will continue to bring about holistic healing, peace, joy and hope. Since we were celebrating Eid’l Fitr, we distributed simple gifts in the form of hygiene kits. The gathering concluded with a solidarity lunch.

In the afternoon, the children shared their gifts and talents; they sang and played. The gathering concluded with a Puppet Show presentation entitled: Let’s Celebrate! The story promotes a message of encouragement, and draws out the values of hope, love, respect, friendship, peace and harmony.


The gathering was designed to remind the society that the children have a lot to teach us adults how to promote the culture of harmony and peace. The children can become agents of harmony. However, it is a reality that children are often ignored in the community. In most of our local traditions, children are not even counted. Yet they are always the victims of the natural and man-made calamities. They are the most vulnerable sector of our society.


But, we cannot anymore ignore their presence. Their contributions have to be acknowledged and appreciated. The cry of the children is: PEACE, MY DREAM. Courage Marawi! We must continue the journey for peace. We can do it together.


We are grateful to our LID Team Volunteers for their whole-hearted commitment to help our vulnerable brothers and sisters in Marawi. Morever, we are also appreciative to our donors, sponsors and partners for their generous contributions to the initiative: “Courage Marawi, Peace my Dream.

 

 

(My special thanks to Maa’am Nor Asiah Madali Adelao for allowing me to post her article in my facebook page and my blog. Thank you also to my Silsilah Dialogue Movement family in Zamboanga City for faithfully sending me their newsletter. – Fr. Felmar Castrodes Fiel, SVD)

Pursue What Leads to Peace (Statement of the Mindanao Bishops on Marawi and Martial Law)

Photo Credit: CBCP News Website

To All People of Good Will:

 

We, Catholic Bishops of Mindanao, address this Statement to every Mindanawon. We originally intended to respond to the requests of our Catholic faithful who asked for pastoral guidance on the issue of Martial Law.

 

We pray for all the murdered innocent victims in Marawi and ask the Lord to protect all the families that have fled to safety.

 

We condemn the terrorist acts that have caused the loss of many innocent lives, the burning of homes, public buildings, including a Protestant school dormitory and a Catholic Cathedral.

 

We condemn the unconscionable kidnapping of teachers and church personnel.

 

We pray for the safety of all the kidnapped, of Fr. Teresito Suganob and his companions. We appeal to the hostage takers to release all of them unharmed. The victims fear death but they also have the courage to give ultimate witness to Christ.

 

In the strongest terms we condemn terrorism in its various forms. It is an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace. Especially so when terrorism is perpetrated while our Muslim brothers and sisters are preparing for the holy month of Ramadhan. Terrorism distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths. It creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility.

 

The President of the Philippines has responded to the Marawi crisis by declaring Martial Law in the entire Mindanao. Many criticise the decision as reminiscent of the horrors of a past dictatorship. Others support the decision as justified.

 

We are aware that the problems of peace and order, of the continuing disruptive activities of other rebel groups, the problems of criminality and drugs, of corruption and underdevelopment are in every nook and corner of Mindanao. Mindanao problems go beyond the city limits of Marawi.

 

Our Catholic faithful have asked for pastoral guidance regarding Martial Law. We are guided by the Sacred Scriptures and by the social teachings of the Church. St. Paul exhorts us to “pursue what leads to peace” (Rom. 14: 19).

 

Martial Law is a means of last resort. Are moral principles fulfilled? Were other means to resolve the deep and wide serious problems of Mindanao impractical and ineffective? Will the positive effects of Martial Law outweigh the negative effects? Will there be probability of success? Will it bring about a culture of accountability and end a culture of impunity? Will Martial Law increase human rights violations? Will Martial Law be abused for evil purposes?

 

The answers to many questions are speculative. We have many fears. But at present we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible. But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary.

 

We shall condemn any abuse of Martial Law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil. Let us be vigilant.

 

We exhort everyone to be calm in the face of Martial Law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction. We urge the government to remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good.

 

The focus of every religion is peace on earth, peace in heaven. Let us pursue together what leads to peace. Let all religious teachers and leaders quell the tendencies towards the terrorist ideology. Together let us pursue what leads to peace. Let us pray for peace and work for peace.

 

God bless the people of Marawi. God bless all Mindanawons.

 

With the approval of the Bishops of Mindanao,

 

 

+Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
26 May 2017