To discuss mental health issues and violent extremism under the lens of Islam and Catholicism, SALAM: The Ateneo Muslim Society organized an interreligious discussion at the 8th floor Xavier Hall of the Community Center Building last Saturday, September 29.
Among the speakers who presented the topics were SAMASIKOFIL president Ms. Jesalyn Agdalipe, Mrs. Apple Alvarez of AdDU Center Against Illegal Drugs (CAID), and Salaam Movement Project Coordinator Ms. Fatima Star Lamalan.
To relay the stand of their respective faiths, Ustadh Nasser Datumanong of the Mercy Islamic Center and University Catholic Theologian Mr. Bernard Buela were also invited to
Depression vs sadness
Agdalipe emphasized that depression and sadness, though very similar and commonly used interchangeably, are two very different things.
“When you’re sad, you can be happy tomorrow; when you’re sad, you can do something to feel okay again. But when you’re depressed kasi, depression isn’t something na ‘I’m depressed can we go out and drink?’, ‘I’m depressed can we go out and play? I’ll be okay tomorrow’ it’s not like that,” she explained. “Depression doesn’t have physical symptoms. You don’t have wounds and you don’t bleed, but you bleed inside,” she expressed.
The SAMASIKOFIL president continued that going out of depression is difficult and warned that self-diagnosing is not advisable as it might prevent the person to seek help.
Buela expressed his insight from the Catholic perspective saying every human person needs affirmation through love.
“Because God is love and man is created in the image and likeness of God, therefore, the human person is also a creature of love. Anthropologically, every human person cannot be fully human without being affirmed, without being loved, and this is where the problem arises, where depression could arise, when a person is not given love or what we call affirmation,” he said.
The theologian added that God has given humans enough to battle depression and that His love is the sufficient affirmation.
For the Islamic perspective, Ustadh Datumanong mentioned that even the prophets and messengers, great persons with a great character and faith, experienced depression.
“Sa kabila na sila na yung pinakamarunong sa mga tao, sila yung mas malawak ang pang-unawa patungkol sa nature ng buhay dito sa mundong ibabaw, so kapag ka may problema sa ating mga tao ang unang-unang dinudulugan natin ay ang lumikha sa atin, this is a place of test, both tinetest tayo ng Panginoon ng kaginhawaan at tinetest din tayo ng kalungkutan,” he shared.
Alvarez of CAID stated depression can lead to drug addiction and is a global phenomenon affecting teenagers and presently, even six to eight year-old kids who use inhalants.
She described drug addiction as compulsive and relaxing, noting that some addicted users who try to abstain or quit commonly suffer from a ‘relapse’ where during or after months of recovery, they tend to return to the abuse.
The CAID representative proceeded to discuss the most common illegal drugs being used and its adverse effects.
“Those people who are using Marijuana has this tendencies of not finishing their courses, even secondary education,” she said after citing a research,” she stated.
Alvarez concluded by displaying a matrix showing the huge scope of the negative effects that drug addiction can bring from the individual to the family and to the society.
Buela emphasized that medicine is a by-product of the human genius. While its intention is positive, he said there are always two sides of the same coin.
“You can slice with a knife: meat, fish, & vegetables, but at the same time, that knife can be very dangerous if it is used to harm a person. Anything under the sun can be used morally or immorally. So at the end of the day, it has something to do with the attitude, maturity, education, and the civilization of the human person,” he said.
He also noted that as societies are getting more secularized, religion is already being privatized.
“We seem to be saying that we don’t believe in God anymore, that we don’t ascribe to the objectivity of morality. What does that do to us? We turn to the secular moral norm which is moral relativism: what’s good for you may not be good for me. What may be bad for me may not be bad for you. So kanya-kanya tayo, kahit ano na lang. So practically there is no standard for morality, anybody can call the shots,” he said.
Ustadh Datumanong stated that Islam is the comprehensive way of living and that drugs alone is not the problem but the addiction to it.
He also mentioned alcohol addiction was widespread even during the time of Prophet Muhammad as some people perform their prayers intoxicated. It went on until he gave them spiritual advices.
“[Prophet Muhammad] kept on reminding them about God, about hereafter na ‘If you drink wine in this world you will never drink wine in hereafter’,” he said.
Ustadh Datumanong added that the Salat (five daily prayer) would prevent a believer from immorality.
Lamalan clarified that violent extremism is not constricted within religion. Citing United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (US FBI) definition, she stressed violent extremism is ‘encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals’.
“Our brothers and sisters who have resorted to joining violent extremist organizations, they lack the sense of first, identity. They’re seeking for identity, and they found themselves in ascribing themselves to those groups, that’s why they did that. Secondly, they are seeking for a sense of belongingness, for one thing to be part of something, for one thing to be part of a group where they belong, where they think they are fit into being there; and lastly a sense of purpose,” she said.
The Salaam Coordinator pointed out that one does not need to be involved with a terrorist group in order to be concerned with violent extremism.
“A young person sitting inside his/her room right now instead of listening to this talk and who is actively engaged in social media can easily be a prey for these people,” she warned.
Lamalan also cautioned all are at risk, continuing that in Mindanao there have been reports of ISIS recruitments in campuses.
“They prey on those who live in poverty and offer them benefits they can’t refuse—and by the way I’m not stating this with my own opinion but basing on research—or coerce them into joining with the reds. Moreover they are on social media already, given the Islamic State’s wide network, it is very easy for a persuasive message to land on your news feed anytime and it is scary,” she said.
She concluded that those people who have the misinterpreted version of the Quran need to be educated of its right interpretation.
Buela reiterated any elements in creation could be perceived as good or bad, depending on one’s worldview.
“The Medieval Ages have seen the Church really as a fraud, anomalous. Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II both admitted that the Church has had plenty of shortcomings in history,” he said recounting The Crusades, Knights Templar, and the Inquisition.
Ustadh Datumanong noted the need for proper education that can be achieved not by learning alone but with a teacher.
“Sa pag-aaral na meron kang teacher, hindi lang yung knowledge ang nakukuha mo pati yung attitude at kabutihan ng teacher nakukuha mo,” he said.
Mr. Janor Balo of Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia reiterated the main points raised in each topic and stressed the importance of knowledge.
“Obligatory sa lahat ng Muslim at Muslimah ang mag seek ng knowledge, and not just any knowledge but proper and right knowledge, knowledge that benefits humanity,” he said.
Balo concluded with two of the Hadiths that will serve as a guide for one’s routine.
“The best of action is in moderation and know yourself because in knowing yourself, you will know your God,” he concluded.
Mr. Peter Cullen Sorrosa, a nurse referral specialist of CAID, noted in an interview the importance of one’s connection to his/her significant others in dealing with depression.
“Especially to your family, pag naputol yang connection na yan, wala na rin yung support system mo, diyan magstart ang depression,” he said.
He also expressed his support in the government’s war on drugs.
“CAID perhaps is one of the best supporters sa government natin kasi we believe na malaki na ang progress when it comes to combating drug addiction,” he told Atenews.