The Interfaith Peacebuilding Institute (IPI) has just been successfully launched by The Peacemakers' Circle Foundation, Inc. last April at the University Hotel of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Two modules of the pilot summer training workshop program on MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE FOR NATION-BUILDING were conducted with the help of its partners—the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (ECID-CBCP), the Imam Council of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines' Institute of Islamic Studies—and the invaluable support of the U.S. Embassy's Democracy Small Grants Program. Module I (Introduction to Muslim-Christian Dialogue) ran from April 20-24, and Module II (Building Bridges of Muslim-Christian Understanding) from April 27-May 1.
There were thirty participants (15 Muslims and 15 Christians) from different sectors of society, six were from Mindanao and the rest were from various parts of the National Capital Region of Metro Manila. Among them were representatives from the academe, the religious sector, media, government (from the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Security Commission, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines), non-government organizations, and people's organizations. There were nine women and five young adults. They lived together at the University Hotel throughout the duration of the program.
The Christians were mostly Catholics, but there were also two wonderful Protestants among them. The Muslims were a mixture of natural-born Muslims from different ethnic tribes and some representatives from the balik Islam (“reverts”) group. A Swiss Protestant missionary woman based in the Philippines and a Muslim woman from Indonesia (who is doing research in a Jesuit university in Manila) were given the opportunity to participate despite the fact that this training program was designed for Filipinos. Their engagement in grassroots work here was deemed of value to the process of learning to appreciate the Filipino sense of self! Despite the fact that one Muslim (a retired Salam police) was not able to complete the training, the twenty-nine who did were very inspiring and encouraging in their passionate engagement in the whole process!
The Moral Imagination* methodologies were integral to the entire training process. Creative expression approaches to the cognitive yielded amazing results! The participants engaged in role playing and drama, some wrote poetry, others drew beautiful pictures that we hung on the wall, they sang and danced, played games, and at the end everyone seemed deeply moved by the experience! Some men shed tears; and during our solidarity evening it was a big surprise to see Muslim men (and imams!) dancing and singing with the rest of us!
As a prerequisite to Module II this module focused on "seeing" the world and how to be the change that we wished to see. It touched on dialogue as a means to an end and an end in itself; on how to dialogue and listen with the heart, and how to perceive differences among people. It integrated the principles learned from the Moral Imagination Training under Dr. John Paul Lederach (foremost Mennonite lecturer on Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding) by members of the Peacemakers' Circle—Lee Collano, Dr. Abdulhusin "Jo" Kashim, Imam Akmad Wahab, and myself. We are currently representing the Philippines in the global United Religions Initiative (URI) Peacebuilding Training Program (see http://www.uri.org/).
During the last day, Dr. Kashim, our very able speaker on Islam, gave a talk (that he had earlier presented to the public last April 12) on "Finding Place for Moral Imagination in the Peace Process in Southern Philippines." This ended Module I on a high note, and the participants were eager to find ways to collectively address issues of common concern in their respective spheres of influence.
Module II: Building Bridges of Muslim-Christian Understanding (April 27-May 1)
The same participants who attended Module I attended this second module. We had highly qualified Resource Persons from the Catholic Church--Archbishop Antonio Ledesma (President of ECID-CBCP), Fr. Carlos Reyes (Executive Secretary of ECID-CBCP), Fr. Leonardo Mercado, and Fr. Andre De Bleeker. Dr. Abdulhusin Kashim and Dean Mashur Bin-Ghalib Jundam were the Resource Persons for the topics on Islam, but due to unforeseen circumstances, Dr. Kashim ended up being the sole presenter for Islam. His lectures were excellent and much applauded. This module focused on the respective histories, teachings, beliefs and practices of the Christian and Islamic faiths. It was an intensive course in five days, but it was heartwarming how well the participants seemed to have appreciated gaining a deeper understanding of Islam vis-à-vis Christianity. In the course of the training, tears were shed once again, and an embrace between Dr. Jo Kashim (our Muslim speaker) and Dr. Ed Domingo (our Catholic Christian participant) brought this module to a healing end.