22 young evangelical pastors and 23 young ulama (Islamic religious leaders) gathered together last 18-20 September 2017 in Iligan City “to build a strong interfaith peace constituency among the new generation of Muslim and Christian leaders for a better and peaceful community.” The event was tagged as Young Muslim and Christian Leaders’ Reflective Dialogue and Solidarity for Marawi Narratives.
Based on a technical report by one of the coordinators, Abel Avila Moya, the following objectives were attained based on the participants’ feedback and evaluation:
• the young Christian and Muslim religious leaders have now a clearer, better, and common understanding about Marawi Crisis and Violent Extremism;
• the young Muslim and Christian religious leaders have a better appreciation of the values of interfaith peacebuilding and a deeper experience of unity-in-diversity; and,
• the young Christian and Muslim religious leaders were able to forge cooperation and solidarity among themselves that would lead in restoring relations among peoples and would help provide solid foundation for rebuilding Marawi.
The highlights of the realizations in this two-day dialogue were very enlightening and encouraging for inter-religious dialogue:
1. The problem in Marawi is not just terrorism that can be answered by a military solution. Martial law alone would not solve the problem. Rather, Marawi needs a more comprehensive solution as terrorism is deeply rooted in issues like historical injustices, as well as unjust political and economic structures. The issue of inclusive and transparent local governance surfaced as the most important factor towards the prevention of terrorism.
2. Despite the differences, all religions share a similar message of peace and tolerance. It is only when there is a deep understanding of one’s own religious beliefs and commitments that progress can be made in achieving true understanding and respect for the religious values and beliefs of others. Faith-based leaders are important stakeholders in rebuilding Marawi City.
3. Engaging in interfaith dialogue does not in any way mean undermining one’s own faith or religious tradition. Indeed, interfaith dialogue is constructive only when people become firmly grounded in their own religious traditions. Faith and religion are not in any way factors to the Marawi War.
4. Marawi narratives are more than just horror stories of war; in the Marawi Crisis, amazing stories of saving lives of different faith and tribes need to be shared and celebrated. In the history of faith, there are so many beautiful and inspiring thoughts about interfaith cooperation and fellowship even in the midst of the Marawi Crisis. The stories from faith-based lens that emerge from alternative narratives –the stories that overcame biases and prejudices of identity, categorization and labels need to be retold again and again. The experiences that no identity, regardless of different tribes, would stop anyone from helping other people as faith told us to do – because it is a humane thing to do.
5. Wars without limit are wars without end. Faith-based leaders should ask the government when this war will end and when the Marawi bakwit (evacuees) will return to their home.
6. Next steps: We need to have continuing exchanges of communication, initiate intra-faith sessions among young ulama, pushing for faith-based leaders to participate in rebuilding Marawi. We also need to conduct more interfaith solidarity conferences for deeper understanding and working together.
This interfaith reflective dialogue was jointly organized by Rawaten Inc., PeaceBuilders Community Inc. (PBCI) and Saving Lives Movement (SLM). This would not be successful without the support of the following partners:
• Catholic Relief Services, Philippines
• Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation Commission of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches
• World Vision Philippines