Basilan Province – PEACE advocates and dialogue experts from different parts of Mindanao went on a day of actual exposure on interfaith dialogue last April 2, this time listening to the stories of residents of this province.
The activity was part of the three-day Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD) Conference sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) from March 31- April 2 in Zamboanga City and in this island.
According to CRS Program Officer on IRD Deng Giguiento, an exposure like the one in Basilan is the important so peace advocates could experience themselves the process.
“Because in dialogue we know the importance of restorative justice… And listening to others’ stories is one of it,” Giguiento told the participants during the briefing held at Querexeta Formation Center in the island’s capital city of Isabela.
Participants for this first IRD conference include peace advocates from Central Mindanao, Davao region and Zamboanga Peninsula, who are also partners of CRS in its different programs on peace education and interreligious dialogue.
The participants were able to listen and share stories with the Basilan residents who were affected by past conflicts in the province. They included members of the local monitoring team of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), civil society groups and other non-governmental organizations based in the island-province.
Besides Isabela City, where the participants were formally welcome by vicar general Fr. Santiago Agoo, Jr. of the Isabela prelature, the group also visited Lamitan City, the site where the infamous Lamitan siege took place back in 2001.
Fr. Agoo said as dialogue workers, it is also imperative that they understand the real issues of the communities where they work.
“Let’s continue in that mode as we begin to work for peace and dialogue (in Mindanao),” Fr. Agoo told the participants.
Giving the briefing of Basilan was Nagdilaab Foundation program director Dedette Suacito. She shared some stories of Basilan and Nagdilaab’s initiatives and work to help alleviate the lives of residents here, which in a way helped minimize the longtime effect brought about by the conflicts and turmoil in the island.
Other speakers included Fr. Dennis, who talked about the Claret-Samal Foundation, an organization working for the Samal and Badjao resident in Maluso municipality.
Together with CRS, the activity was also hosted in part by Convenio’s Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ).