Dr. Ofelia “Bing” Durante
Director, Ateneo Research Center – Ateneo de Zamboanga University
Zamboanga City, Philippines
(Welcome letter: Issue #50 – December 2007)
The opportunity to dialogue with friends in the Global Campaign for Peace Education at this time of the year is a blessing. I greet you a joyous season of hope and a prosperous year to come.
Mindanao is home to three major groups, referred to as the island’s ‘tri-people’adhering to diverse cultures which show divergent beliefs and practices. Based on the total Mindanao population of 16 million (1995 census), the indigenous people, the Lumads comprise 5 percent; the Islamized people, the Moros 28.23 percent or 5 percent of the country’s population; and the Christians, the settlers and their descendants 71.77 percent.
The long years of conflict in Mindanao have left several communities bereft of the peace and development that they rightfully deserve. The roots of these unrests could be traced to among others, the prejudices and biases usually evident in a multi-cultural society. The conflict in Mindanao is described as a social problem with the existence of deep-seated prejudices characterized by mutual distrust and mutual suspicion.
In a land scarred by more than three decades of armed conflict, the enthusiasm to work for peace is overflowing. This was manifested in the recently concluded Community-based Institute on Peace Education (CIPE).
The CIPE on the theme “Interfaith Dialogue & Education toward a Culture of Peace: A Response to the Mindanao Conflict” was conducted at Ateneo de Zamboanga University on November 26-29, 2007. It brought together almost a hundred policy makers, educators, practitioners, activists, and advocates of peace of the formal and non-formal education sector of the Philippines in order to discuss processes for the institutionalization of interfaith dialogue and education toward a culture of peace in the formal and non-formal education sector. So, together with our international colleagues in the peace education movement we sat to listen, reflect, share our ideas and successful practices in our work on interfaith and education toward a culture of peace.
The Institute gave us an opportunity to develop a research agenda on interfaith dialogue and education toward a culture of peace and to form a network of peace educators. We have committed to sustain the effort to work for peace in Mindanao. We hope that these efforts will make a dent towards bringing peace to this scarred island, Mindanao.