Christians, Muslims and Indigenous People Dialogue the Road to Community Building

Basilan, a Philippine Island province in the Southern seas and is a stretch of Zamboanga Peninsula. It is separated from the mainland of Mindanao with the population of 70% Muslim and a composition of the ethnic groups: Tausog, Yakan, Samal Badjao and the remaining 27% are the Catholics and 3% other Christian denominations. The poor conditions of the majority are largely due to the unstable peace and order situation which affects the livelihood, education and stability of the people.

We, as Dominican sisters are the collaborators to a common mission along with the so-called mission partners in the Prelature of Isabela de Basilan. In close coordination with other organizations existing in the island, we continue to bridge the gap and work hand in hand to achieve the ever-longed aspiration and dream:  to live in harmony, unity and peace in this lovely place of Basilan.

Interreligious Dialogue and Interfaith are the key programs where leaders and core groups from different places in the island of Basilan including the military and local police as well. Likewise, teaming up with government agencies and leaders of each, various Churches leaders where we gather for continued and a series of meetings, seminars, assemblies and conferences with invited speakers focusing on peacebuilding and the continued peace advocacies. Imparting strategies, varying from core to community groups, and a sharing to community to community strategy.

Listening to each, the sad and brutal experiences which hurt the core of our being – where killings and abductions, kidnap for ransom, encounters with militaries where entire family dies, etc. These are mainly caused by rebel groups called Abu Sayaff and other notorious terrorist groups.

In seeking the ruin of lives of many… We question unceasingly:  is justice served or deserved by those who never give up on hoping? Absolutely not! Yet people are still hoping and praying that one day, Basilan will be free from the snares of the devil! In fact,  several landowners abandoned their lands and fled to a better place to live  while majority remain struggling to till their own precious piece of land as their source of living, and continue to search for a meaningful and fruitful life where peace and love will one day prevail. Basileños work and endeavor to realize their quest for a PEACEFUL BASILAN. 

How to do it? The children, the youth and adults need education gearing to a profound Peace that we long for. Yet, we believe that it must take root in one’s way of living, the values of Jesus and the Gospel are high definitions to achieve everyone’s aspiration and happiness. Unless everyone is convinced that the need to start with oneself,  at home with the family can it make real into the community, to society where the same dream has been the quest, fight and common struggle through the centuries, not just in this part of the globe, but throughout history of human existence.

May we all labor to pray and dare be a small spark to alight the world for peace begins with me.  

 * Pely Virtudazo