02/08/2018, 15.21
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Silsilah, dialogue and education at the centre of World Interfaith Harmony Week

Celebration the transforming power of the love of God and the love of neighbour for the common good’ was the theme of the 2018 edition. About 250 Muslim teachers took part in the meeting, together with Zamboanga’s most respected religious leaders. For Fr Sebastiano D’Ambra, “the reflections of some of the Muslim leaders” were in line with the pope’s message against violence in the name of religion.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – World Interfaith Harmony Week (1-7 February) came to a close yesterday in Zamboanga (Mindanao). The event, in its sixth edition, was promoted by Silsilah*, a movement for dialogue and peace founded in 1984 by Fr Sebastiano D’Ambra, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

Given its success, interfaith groups in Zamboanga set an association – the United Nations Interfaith-Harmony Partners-Zamboanga (Uni-Hp-Z). In all, some 35 groups involved in education joined the initiative, coordinating and funding its various activities.

‘Celebration the transforming power of the love of God and the love of neighbour for the common good’ was this year’s theme.

Last year saw the island of Mindanao at the centre of deadly fighting between government forces and the Maute, a terrorist group inspired by the Islamic State.

The group seized sections of the mostly city of Marawi and the ensuing violence left at least 1,131 people dead, sparking ethno-religious tensions in the area, home to most Filipino Muslims, who represent about 20 per cent of the country’s population.

"As convenor of this program I was present in most of the important events in the city and I followed the same activities done on national level,” said Fr D’Ambra.

“Here I focused my attention on one done in Zamboanga for all the ALIVE (Arabic Language and Islamic Values) Muslim teachers of the Department of Education under the leadership of Haja Sarah Handang.”

The latter is a Muslim educator and activist for religious dialogue who is a committed member of Silsilah. She heads the Madrasah Education Program (MEP)**, which is funded by the Government of the Philippines to ensure basic education standards for all ALIVE teachers in public and private madrasahs across the country.

About 250 teachers took part in the 2 February meeting (pictured), along with the most respected religious leaders in Zamboanga.

For Fr D'Ambra, this moment of dialogue was very important. "The spirit of friendship and respect for Silsilah and for me was very touching,” he said.

On this occasion, he listened to “Muslim leaders present Islam as religion of peace and encourage ALIVE teachers to be guided by the good spirit of Islam and not by those who promote violence. In this context, I find the message of Pope Francis in the line with the reflections of some of the Muslim leaders”.

For this reason, Fr D'Ambra quoted the pontiff from his 2 February address to the people who participated in the conference ‘Tackling violence committed in the name of religion’.

“Violence promoted and carried out in the name of religion can only discredit religion itself,” said the pontiff. “Consequently, such violence must be condemned by all, and especially by genuinely religious persons, who know that God is always goodness, love and compassion, and that in him there is no room for hatred, resentment or vengeance.”

In view of this, “There is a need, then, for a common commitment on the part of political authorities, religious leaders, teachers and those engaged in the fields of education, training and communications, to warn all those tempted by perverse forms of misguided religiosity that these have nothing to do with the profession of a religion worthy of this name.”

* Silsilah, chain or connection in Arabic.

** Madrasah or madrassa, Quranic school.

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