Peace. Unity. Respect. These values are what Lantaw, a group of third year Mass Communication students of the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), together with the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia aim to pursue with their advocacies on erasing gaps and challenging religious extremism between Islamic and non-Islamic groups in their photo booth activity which opened last Dec. 2 at the Arrupe Hall.
The activity, where students were invited to take their pictures performing the group’s emblem hand sign and posting it in social media with the hashtag #ErasingGaps, was just one of Lantaw’s activities for their advocacy’s promotion in connection with the ‘Peer to Peer: Challenging extremism’ competition.
P2P: Challenging extremism is an initiative by the U.S. state department together with EdVenture Partners, and supported in part by Facebook, for students around the world to create their own social media campaigns and be actively involved in “challenging violent extremist ideologies and propaganda”.
Lantaw moderator Cecille Rodriguez explained the use of social media in their campaigns.
“The purpose is to challenge extremism, basically knowing that social media is what’s being used by terrorist groups now to spread their cause [or message, and even recruit participants]. So we are fighting that. We are challenging that also through social media to encourage young people to challenge extremism as well,” she said.
Aside from the photo booth, their social media campaigns and information dissemination, 16 selected students from the group also went to Datu Ibrahim Paglas School Foundation, Maguindanao for their immersion activity ‘Bitiala: Conversation with the Youth’ where they had discussions about peace, and open dialogues about the misunderstandings of Christian and Islamic cultures as champions of peace.
Peter Allan Nierra one of the students who conducted the Bitiala shared his experience.
“At first we took it as a project lang, but after our immersion in Maguindanao, we we’re really touched especially upon knowing that it was their first time to be heard and to have been given attention. Nalaman namin kung gaano yung takot nila everyday na lumabas ng bahay—takot because of the extremism na nakatatak sa kanila,” he said.
Lantaw member Prudegine Grace Guillena also expressed her hopes for their advocacy’s turnout.
“We’re doing this because we want to crash the stereotypic attitude of the people between non-Islamic and Islamic cultures and not just by these cultures but also of LGBT communities, and also that of different races,” she said.
From their activities, Lantaw is currently coming up with an e-book based on the experiences and reflections from both the participants and group members, which they also hope will be shared around the world.
Regarding the competition, selected teams will be given the opportunity to present their campaign to the U.S Department of State in Washington, D.C., and winning teams will receive exchange program scholarship awards.
The photo booth will be open until Dec.9.