Tackling recent peace-related issues and problems encountered by every faith, student participants from different organizations emphasized the importance of dialogue in promoting peace amidst the occurrence of peace-disrupting events, such as wars and genocide.
Acknowledging the different beliefs that exist within the country, SALAM-The Ateneo Muslim Society (SALAM-TAMS) president Zaj Hisham Mali said that dialogue is not impossible regardless of our differences, and the peace processes in Mindanao is a living proof that it is possible.
“[Religion] is not something na kailangang magdivide sa atin, but rather, it’s something that can unite us as part of the same community,” he said.
Throughout the discussion, representatives from different faith organizations presented the problems they experienced concerning their religion, the current issues of peace in Mindanao, and how they perceive and address them through the lens of their faith.
Among the issues mentioned were the recent Mindanao State University – Marawi (MSU – Marawi) bombing, the ongoing genocide in Palestine, the Marawi siege in 2017, the discrimination against the Lumads, and the conflicts within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“Every murder and every single genocide is never merely political or personal. Rather, it contains, in its core, an attack to God,” Faith Formation Assemblage representative Raven Jard Castañeda said.
On the other hand, Ateneo Lumad Students Organization (ALSO) representative Angelo Tilucan talked about his experiences as an Umajamnon, describing how other people’s misconceptions of their beliefs have led to discrimination and historical injustice.
“They will brand us Lumad as having a backward culture, a thing of the past, ignorant, and among other discriminations that you could imagine. Will there be true peace even in this rampant discrimination and historical injustices toward us?”
In an effort to understand further and address the peace problems, SAMAHAN Department of External Affairs (DEA) Director Denise Maxyn Amarga stated that it is essential to delve deeper into the communities and start from the grassroots level.
“We start from the grassroots, and from that, we would be able to understand what we need, what causes these unfortunate situations. And once we truly understand one another, we will be able to work together towards attaining peace for our community.”
However, during the dialogue, Castañeda called out the SAMAHAN’s statement on the MSU – Marawi bombing incident, questioning the usage of the term “religious gathering” rather than acknowledging the actual context of the said tragedy.
“Are we not representatives of a student body of a Catholic university? Do we not understand the fundamental or at least the poetic difference between a religious gathering and a holy mass? It was not just peace and order that was threatened, it was life.”
The Interfaith Dialogue part of the culmination of the Mindanao Week of Peace celebration was headed by the SAMAHAN DEA in coordination with the Unyon ng mga Estudyante sa Mindanao, a formation consisting of different student governments in Mindanao, with the theme “Symphony: Beyond Borders, Beyond Silence.”
According to MWOP Executive Director and Unyon Mindanao Ambassador Gabriel Salvatierra, the event was conceptualized based on the framework of Unyon Mindanao on fostering and building peace starting within the universities in Mindanao.
“Here in Davao City particularly, since we’re made up of Muslims, Christians, and Lumads, at least we can go get together naman with their perspectives. We can go and interact and see their perspectives and we can come up to a solution on how to compromise,” Salvatierra stated.
Besides the MWOP celebration in AdDU, Unyon Mindanao also organized the Mindanao Peace Summit held at Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, which was attended by delegates from SAMAHAN Central Board, Council of Class Presidents, SAMAHAN DEA, and SALAM-TAMS.