In last week’s article, I discussed the Jesuit Conversations in Mindanao. The entire activity was a good way of exchanging ideas, paradigms and rethinking processes regarding Mindanao, its people and environment.
Tony Blaire once said that, “a dialogue that moves from hands to hearts to heads complements what is normally understood as inter-religious dialogue. A dialogue from heads to hearts does not always result in multi-faith. But action together can aid that dialogue”.
When we began our work in Al Qalam few years back, we would from time to time say that we needed inter religious dialogues to promote greater tolerance between those of different faiths. Many interreligious dialogues later, I realized that the words “tolerance of the other faiths” do not yield the objectives of these dialogues.
We should be humble enough to accept that we cannot either circumscribe or define adequately God’s will. So though we believe that we are the holder of the absolute truth of God we should let go of the arrogance to merely of tolerate a person of different faith; but instead respect them as an equal.
People always ask me, what is an Islamic institute doing in a Catholic, Jesuit, Filipino university?
And I will always answer them that Al Qalam Institute is based in Ateneo de Davao University because we believe in the principle of the COMMON WORD, which is TO LOVE GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. A commandment common not only to one religion but to all religions.
In Ateneo de Davao, we believe that the best way to encourage such an attitude, is to let it develop naturally. And the best way for it to develop naturally is for people of different faiths to express their values, together in action. Thus, we have the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia.
When Fr. Joel Tabora delivered his report in the Mindanao Conversation to the Philippine Jesuits’ Meeting of Superiors and Directors of Work last January 3, 2014, he presented the 10 Main Action Points which are as follows:
- Create values-based leadership formation programs for Christian, Muslims and Indigenous peoples that provide probing critical analyses of the complex issues of peace, using inclusive, integrative, and exploratory multidisciplinary approaches.
- Form leaders both in the church and society who possess good moral conscience, a healthy understanding of the exercise of Christian power that puts the common good over and above personal interests, and who are responsible and accountable for decisions made on behalf of the community.
- Develop a leadership institute for indigeneous peoples that provides appropriate formation of tribal leaders, empowering them to better address socio-cultural and political issues affecting their respective communities, and capacitating them with technical know-how in dealing with complex issues such as ancestral domain, environmental protection, cultural preservation, among others.
- That Jesuit universities and institutions act as convenors and consensus builders in facilitating and providing more avenues for inclusive discussion, dialogue, collaboration, and consultation on crucial issues such as peace, environment, wealth creation and equitable distribution, spirituality, leadership, social justice and the common good among various stakeholders that include both the main actors and informal leaders.
- Develop and explore further an appropriate intra-faith framework in dialoguing for peace while strengthening existing programs related to it to complement and supplement current inter-faith initiatives.
- Rethink old or create new paradigms in developing initiatives, program and projects that provide for the creation of and access to wealth as a means of addressing poverty and of empowering communities, especially those at the margins.
- Develop further studies and research on the market that provide the basis for the creation of a new economic system anchored on the principles of accountability, transparency, good governance, social justice, environmental responsibility, and the ultimate aspiration for the common good.
- Create new, ingenious ways in appropriating and integrating Ignatian Spirituality that embrace various aspects and ways of life – or as applied in different religious contexts – as a key component not only in strengthening social formation but also in developing relevant social engagements and advocacies.
- Provide greater institutional support for social movements and advocacies that actively lobby for the enactment of laws upholding social justice and the common good, as well as offer university support for local churches, communities and organizations that support such advocacies.
- Craft programs and initiatives geared toward cultural transformation and regeneration, providing opportunities for shifting of paradigms and value systems, and offering meaningful appreciation for positive Filipino traits.
Inshallah, these ten main points can then be translated to concrete deliverables within a few years time.
This whole experience in Ateneo reminds me of the story of “Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute” which is mentioned in the Bible in Matthew 9:27-31. Fr. Dan McNamara, SJ, once told us that, “When we approach you with humility and faith, you act in our lives in truly remarkable ways. Your actions in our lives cause us to love you more and to experience within ourselves a profound gratitude. Despite your stern warning, the blind men couldn’t keep silent about your curing them. How else can we show our gratitude than by telling those around us about the great things you have done for us? Your actions in our lives inspire us to spread your word.”