LAST May 11 to 16, 2016, I was fortunate to be part of the 2nd Training of the KAICIID International Fellows Programme that was held at Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka. The said training gathered 20 fellows from different countries and from five major religions in the world.
The whole programme brings together teachers and religious leaders from various religious education centres from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. As part of the fellow, I participate in a series of in-person and online trainings on inter religious dialogue, coexistence, and pluralism for a period of one year that started last November 2015.
The second training gave us the opportunity to meet our co-fellows and give some updates of what we do and what we plan to conduct for the KAICIID program. It also trained us on various relevant topics on inter religious dialogue (IRD) that included following: dialogue zones and the principles of dialogue; diversity and acceptance:inter cultural communications; developing and inter religious dialogue courses/programmes; city tour and visits on religious houses of worship and pedagogical experience); teaching IRD with religious actors and peacemakers; facilitation skills; case studies on IRD in Sri Lanka; and developing our own IRD initiatives.
The experience in the training was awesome. It made sure that we learn from the courses/programs of KAICIID and that we also have fun experiencing the culture, art, tradition and food in Sri Lanka.
Back in 2015, Pope Francis visited Sri Lanka and gave a strong speech that put importance of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue in the country which is undergoing a process of reconciliation, following a 26-year-long civil war. In a meeting at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall during the first day of his papal visit to South Asia in January 2015, Pope Francis said: “As experience has shown for (inter-religious) dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions. Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are. But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common. New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship.”
He further said, “For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence. What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division. Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family.”
He added: “For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.”
I am very happy that the 2nd training of KAICIID International Fellows was held in Sri Lanka. As a Muslim, a peace advocate, and a practitioner of inter religious dialogue, I know the process of peace and reconciliation takes time. I know dialogue is a process we can apply at different levels of peace and nation building. As I reflect in the present condition of our country today, with high hope that our new president, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, will help our country heal our wounds (socio/political) from the past, and address historical injustices committed against the Moros and Lumads, inter religious dialogue will play a vital role. In the process of healing our nation, we need the help of our religious leaders and active members of the academe to enlighten us and give us the broader perspective of the history of the Filipino people coming from different lenses of people’s view about history. From this historical insights, we move our country in a more inclusive and multi ethnic and religious society that reflects the true identities of the Filipino people.
Inshallah (God willing!), as a KAICIID Fellow, I can contribute a thing or two in this peace and reconciliation process in our country today.