09/21/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Christians and Muslims together in school to learn respect and solidarity

by Santosh Digal
A Catholic school in Mindanao offers Christian, Muslim and Lumad kids a chance to study religion comprehensively and to share in each other’s customs and traditions to cleanse their mind of hatred and ignorance caused by 40 years of war.
Cotabato (AsiaNews) – Muslim, Catholic and indigenous Lumad students are studying together at the Notre Dame High School in Katico (Mindanao), and learning respect for one another as well as greater understanding of each other’s faiths and cultures.

“We teach Catholic and Muslim students to love one’s religion and respect that of others. This would go a long way to promote peace in Mindanao,” School Principal Jose Salamanca said.

The school, which is run by the Diocese of Cotabato, has more than 300 students: 200 Catholics, 98 Muslims and small number of Lumad.

Classes are mixed and students take part in each other’s religious holidays.

In addition to the core programme, the school offers courses in Christian, Muslim and indigenous cultures as a way to encourage interaction among students based on actual knowledge of one another.

Parents are also encouraged to take part in educating Christen and Muslim families and in promoting peace.

For Salamanca, Mindanao’s problems largely depend on an environment of hatred and mistrust that has developed between Christians and Muslims in 40 years of conflict.

For him, as young people grow up in a climate of hatred they do fail to learn about their own creed and that of others. Instead, they need to be strong in their own faith and try to learn about other people’s faith,

“All efforts should be made to promote peace in Mindanao on a daily basis by ordinary people like us,” Salamanca said.

On Sunday, which marked the end of Ramadan, Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said that the “most sensible way of propagating peace and progress in troubled areas in Mindanao is to promote religious and political solidarity and socio-economic cooperation among its Muslim and Christian communities. Such initiative is non-violent and will thus usher in peace among us.”

For the past 40 years, Mindanao has been the scene of warfare between the Filipino military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The conflict has affected the entire population, without distinction among Christians, Muslims and indigenous people. Just in the past 17 months, about 750,000 have been displaced.

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