They were the participants of the first-ever organized Salam Youth Camp held last May 19-22 at College of Agriculture of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) in San Ramon, this city.
For the very first time, this huge number of Muslim youth enthusiastically experienced the equally exciting line up of activities stored and prepared for them by the organizers, the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) and Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ).
According to PAZ executive secretary Sr. Emma I. Delgado, OP, besides the plenary sessions led by invited Muslim speakers, the camp also included exciting activities like trekking, nature walk, environmental encounters and cluster sessions on music, dance, theater and visual arts.
“We saw to it that all the activities were in line with the Muslim culture and practices, so our participants could easily relate to them and appreciate more their culture. And for this purpose, we invited Muslim leaders, too, as speakers and facilitators,” she told PeaceWorks.
Jaafar Kimpa, IRSMP past convener for the Muslim group and camp director, said all the activities conducted were always patterned in accordance with Muslim practices. “Like we tell them stories of the prophets, their lives and their sacrifices,” he said. “And those are in the context of promoting friendship, understanding and peace-building,” he added.
Among the speakers included prominent Muslim environmentalist Edward Lim of Ecogov, IRSMP Muslim convener Prof. Ali T. Yacub, Ustadz Jamal Mohammad, and Muslim career woman Josephine B. Sanchez.
In his presentation on environment and the role of young people as stewards of this planet Earth on the third day of the camp, Lim personally appealed to the young people to exert more effort to save the environment. “You can start it like by doing your own share, by properly disposing your garbage and eventually make it your habit,” he told the participants in Tausug vernacular, assuring that everybody would understand the message.
“It is not as difficult as thought it would be. It just needs discipline and our responsibility as the stewards of our Mother environment,” said one of the participants in the wake of the ecology lecture.
Besides Muslim youths from Zamboanga City, the camp specially accommodated two participants from the islands of Cagayan de Tawi-tawi and two others from Pangutaran in Sulu province.
Prof. Yacub, who delivered an inspiration message during the opening program, cited the importance of the word “Salam” in Islam. He quoted a famous contemporary Muslim scholar Imtiaz Ahmad who said the Islamic greeting (Salam) is better than the greeting of love which is used by all other nations.
He also quoted the three stated reasons of Ahmad, to wit: “It is not just an expression of love but the reason and logic for this love is expressed in the form of a supplication or wishing that you be saved from all forms of grief; It reminds us that we all depend on Allah; that when somebody says I pray that you be at peace, he is declaring and promising you will be safe from his hand and tongue and he will respect your life, honor and dignity.”
Fr. Angel Calvo, PAZ President and IRSMP lead convener representing the Catholic community, challenged everybody to plant the seed of peace, allow it to grow and share it not only among themselves and their peers but also with the older ones.
“As Muslim youth, show to the older ones that we need peace, that the young people want peace. Teach them peace,” he told the participants, as he related to the not-so-good scenario of our Mindanao peace, citing conflicts happening almost everywhere.
But beyond all those heady messages and lectures, the participants were not at all deprived to experience interesting, more relaxing and gamey activities.
“We enjoyed it a lot. It’s like we never get tired of the activities, always excited for what will happen next,” described another participant of her experience.
On the first night, they stargazed to appreciate God’s creation. On the second day, they witnessed the beauty of the sea, with Kimpa moderating the experience along San Ramon shore. On the third day, they planted trees. Their cluster sessions were group workshops and games designed to be lively and interesting.
The music group composed and sang their original tunes; the dance and theater group grooved to the traditional Mindanao dances; the visual arts stroked and painted their own peace visions; while, arts and crafts applied their creativity in “tasbi-making,” posters of Arabic calligraphy, bracelets, key chains and penholders among others.
The beautiful outputs were showcased during the camp’s solidarity night on the third day.
“Both the facilitators and participants were indeed great, very courteous and accommodating. I am became an instant friend to everybody here,” one participant noted.
“I am so touched. Talking and accommodating the needs of the participants, my fellow Muslim youth, is really heartwarming. I enjoyed it more than them,” exclaimed youth facilitator Marhaban Maali, president of Mariki-based Muslim Youth Assembly for Peace (MYAP).
“I am not a Muslim but I enjoyed being with them. Their stories were very inspiring, they were also very cooperating,” added Subanon youth facilitator Leah Carl Jailani.
As this first Salam Youth Camp turned out very successful, Prof. Yacub declared: “The regional one is in the offing. And we want it to happen this year.”