The interfaith orgs’ role in Mindanao peace process

Posted on Thursday, September 30th, 2010 and is filed under Feature. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Alzad T. Sattar is a young Muslim from Basilan who is a professor at the Basilan State College in Isabela City, Basilan. On a scholarship from the Ford Foundation he attended the Coexistence and Conflict Resolution Program at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts in the United States where he received an MA. ñ

Prof. Alzad Sattar, a Ford Foundation scholar, shares the gist of his master's thesis which highlighted the role of interfaith organizations in the Mindanao peace process. Seen with Sattar are Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and Prof. Randy David of the University of the Philippines. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SILSILAH DIALOGUE MOVEMENT

His master’s thesis was entitled The Contributions of Interfaith Organizations to Coexistence and their Possible Role in the Peace Process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao, Philippines. He focused particularly on the Silsilah Dialogue Movement (SDM) and the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC),  a group of bishops, both Catholic and Evangelicals, and ulama. The BUC works closely with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) but is independent from it.

A great part of Prof. Sattar’s research for the thesis was carried out during his stay with the Silsilah Dialogue Movement from mid-June to mid-September, 2009. He observed the activities of the different Silsilah Forum groups in Mindanao and conducted focus group discussions organized with the assistance of these Silsilah Forum groups.
What were some key findings of his research?
Work in interfaith dialogue has been dominated to the present date by Christian groups. “Owing to decades of war and disruption, few Moro and other indigenous peoples have experience with scholarly work compared to Christian Filipinos, who dominate inter-faith activities and NGOs related to peace.” Prof. Sattar also remarked on his observation of Moro participants in the Silsilah Summer Course, how only a few of them had deep knowledge of their own faith and furthermore were handicapped by limited ability to articulate their knowledge.
He also cited how “the overlapping Moro social mosaic of established rebel groups, terrorist groups, and criminal gangs or private armies if politicians and warlords” inhibited civil society peace builders from reaching out to Moro groups.
He pointed out that on both sides of the religious divide there are continuing difficulties posed by differing cultural practices as well as suspicion of the intentions of faith-based groups in their programs of dialogue. He cited one incident where young people from the Christian and Muslim faiths were asked to present a number where men and women had to hold hands. In strict Islamic practice this is not allowed. There is also fear among some Muslim scholars that interfaith dialogue is a strategy of Christians to convert Muslims.
In spite of these findings interfaith groups have “great and positive impact on the people.” There is then need to bring “dialogue and the peace process at the grassroots level. Peace talks could not guarantee instant peace in the communities for as long there is an unseen war going on in the hearts of the tri-people. Lumads, Christians and Muslim religious leaders must take the lead in rallying their own people to support interfaith dialogue and the peace process.”
Prof. Sattar is currently the Dean of Academic Programs of Basilan State College. The Silsilah Dialogue Movement is particularly blessed in having Prof. Sattar as the Muslim Coordinator of the Inter-Faith Council of Leaders (IFCL), newly organized in Basilan. Sharing Coordinator duties with him is (Mrs.) January Zanoria, the Coordinator for the Christian members of the IFCL. (SDM)

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