09/24/2010, 00.00
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Mindanao dialogue between Christians and Muslims begins in schools

At the Talon-Talon National High School in Zamboanga, 50 Christian and Muslim students learn and share the values of peace and dialogue through the development of essays, slogans and songs. The kids all come from a community torn apart by fighting between rival clans. Organized by a group of volunteers of the movement of Silsilah, the initiative gathered students together on September 18 and 19.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews) - More than 50 Christian and Muslim students of Talon-Talon National High School Zamboanga (Mindanao) met on September 18 and 19 to promote dialogue and peace together in the region ravaged by 40 years of war. The two-day entitled "Moving together for dialogue and peace" was organized by young volunteers from the Young Professional for Dialogue and Peace (Ypdp). The initiative was also attended by leaders of local Muslim and Christian groups.

Born within Sisilah, a movement for Christian Muslim dialogue founded by Father Sebastiano D'Ambra (PIME), for years Ypdp has promoted understanding between Christians and Muslims through the study of their cultures and religions. The group is active primarily in local public schools in an area that has been home to ferocious fighting between Christians and Muslims and wars between rival clans.

Students of Talon-Talon High School come from a community that has in recent months witnessed a struggle between two rival clans, causing several deaths among the population. During the two days, the students wrote essays, slogans and songs, where they expressed their aspirations and hopes for the future, as an alternative to the current climate of violence.

School principal Arline Ramirez, says: "We are grateful to Silsilah for creating this opportunity for reflection for our students and for having confidence in their capacity as promoters of the values of peace and dialogue in the community and in school”.

For over 40 years the predominantly Muslim region of Mindanao has been a theatre of war between the Philippine army and the Islamic extremist groups of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf. MILF is seeking to establish an independent Islamic state in the predominantly Muslim island After 10 years of truce, clashes resumed in 2008 due to the failure of talks between the Arroyo government and rebels, causing over 750 thousand displaced among Christians and Muslims and several hundred dead. In September 2009 in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) MILF and government authorities reopened negotiations to end the conflict, but so far neither side has signed a definitive agreement.

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See also
Radio talk-show to foster inter-faith dialogue in Mindanao
Mindanao: spreading a culture of peace through radio
Showdown between government and MILF before peace deal
More education for the young and less politicking are the path to peace in Mindanao
Incoming President Aquino faces task of achieving peace with the MILF


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