Muslim and Christian leaders: Advancing Interreligious Action for Peace in Mindanao

(Cotabato City, August 26, 2017) Several ‘asatidz’ (plu. of ustadz), pastors, priests, archbishops, academe, youth and representatives of CSOs and other stakeholders from all over Mindanao joined together in an interreligious dialogue with the theme “Advancing Interreligious Action for Peace: Contextualizing Religious Literacy to overcome Violent Extremism in Community” organized by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) held at Apo view hotel, Davao City on August 23-25, 2017.

The dialogue aims to come up with unified interreligious approach that would effectively and efficiently prevent violent extremism in the community. 

Pastor James Wuye from City of Kaduna in northern part of Nigeria lectured on domestic and global perspective in addressing conflict and its religious leaders’ role to play.

He also sighted the significant role of those in power and authority to address the conflict. 

“Political will and good governance will be the best solution because corruption, poor leadership and injustices committed against the poor people definitely pushing factors of rebellion and violent extremism aside from the western conspiracy and ignorance as causes’, he said. 

He also believes that using force in addressing this issue will never be a solution but instead will worsen more the situation as he witnessed the decades of militias’ religious conflict in Kaduna that resulted to killing of people and damage to properties.

But they were able to end the conflict in a peaceful manner and interreligious approach, he also said. 

Professor Aboud Syed Lingga, Executive Director of Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) lectured on “Global and local trends of Violent Extremism: Implications to Interreligious Peacebuilding”.

He said that being violent is never ever a culture and tradition anymore among Bangsamoro people instead they are very tolerant and loving people in nature.

He cited a Social Weather Station SWS survey on 2005 that Muslim does not ever change their attitude and behavior towards Christians despite of the war in Mindanao. According to the survey, 90 percent accept Christians as best friends, 90 percent as teachers and 83 percent as neighbors, while willingness of Christians to accept Muslim as best friends, teachers and neighbors are just 61 percent, 58 percent and 51 percent, respectively.  

He also recommends that the government should engage terrorist with narrative of methodology through implementation of all signed agreements and show examples that peace can be achieved through peaceful means instead of violence. 

Dr. Ofelia Durante of Notre Dame University presented the results of their recent survey entitled “Youth Vulnerability to Religious Extremism in ARMM”.  The research found out that push factors to fast growing of Violent Extremism are the following: Delayed resolution of Mindanao conflict, poverty, limited access or no access to education, corruption, and personal conflict experience while the pull factors to join are recruitment, discrimination, injustices and alien ideology.

After the presentation, somebody wary about mentioning that mosque, madrasa and schools become the venue of the recruitment, Ustads Hussain Abdurajak Manial,  President of Holy Quran Memorization Center said.  ”I am worried that it could create negative connotation towards negative implications”. “If there is recruitment, may be just an isolated case because I am sure that the teachers and ‘asatidz’ are very careful on the subjects that they have been teaching to the students to ensure authenticity”. Manial added

Durante clarified that mentioning the mosque, madrasa and schools were merely answers from some sources, and could be target recruitment areas in the future.  

Ustadz Mahmod S. Ahmad, Executive Director of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) lectured on interreligious peacebuilding in Islam. He clarified that Islam is a religion of peace, love and harmony and never be a religion of chaos. He sighted several experience of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) in dealing people of different race and religion where he was able to unite clans that had been feuding centuries ago.

The dialogue ended with reflections, and planning to respond collaboratively with the identified issues such as limited awareness on religion, poor governance, and other related issues that push violent extremism and radicalism.

 Catholic Relief Services will engage to support addressing the structural and political cause of the problem in Mindanao in multiple ways.