For 2014, Bring it on

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013


THE year 2013 is almost ending. A few more hours left as I write this article for the New Year or 1st day of 2014. Indeed, so many things had happened in the year 2013. Some are good, but most of the days of the month were bad as we experienced series of manmade and natural calamities. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), our nation is striving very hard to cope and rebuild our affected communities.

For the holidays, I decided to spend it here in my hometown. It was just a noble to assess the people and communities that will be part of the Bangsamoro political entity.

I arranged a short gathering with my friends since elementary and high school. We had dinner and we had great time talking about our wonder years. During our conversations, it reminded me of my life as a young student enrolled at Catholic schools in Cotabato City for several years, I was introduced to different prayers every start of our class and all the traditions of Notre Dame schools. Belonging to a big clan in Maguindanao, helped a lot connecting myself of being a Muslim fully rooted in the Islamic tradition (Sunni) within our home with a different reality in school and community. This direct experience of another religion contributed to my own awareness of living in a world with many religions. Many realities of world view are like maps we have in a certain place. Sometimes our maps are outdated because the landscape has changed. Thus, we need new methods of analysis and understanding of our present situation.

These past few days helped me discern over the meaning of living in a world in which, "while being aware of one's own religious roots, one has contact on both a personal and an intellectual plane with others who belong to a religious universe different from one's own". These were the words of Syed Hossein Nasr in his article, Living in a Multi Religious World. These words are so much aligned with my own experience as a Muslim who studied in Catholic schools and now working in a Catholic Jesuit university, makes us realize that we face a multi-religious world. Whether we like it or not, this is a reality and we need to learn how to make the best of it.

Much has been said about the Muslim - Christian conflict in the past. The Moro-moro plays introduced to us by the Spanish colonial government, the Iranun pirates who invaded islands in Visayas and Luzon for slave trading, seem to be locked inside our minds and psyches. Until now, majority of our population, especially the people from Luzon and Visayas see Mindanao as the land of religious conflict. Unfortunately, even in the communities at Barangay Rosary Heights of Cotabato City, has this deep mistrust and distrust between Muslims and Christians. The days of the Martial law are still fresh in their minds. The recent series of bombings in the city for the past decade instill fear and anger of the Christian Cotabateneos towards the Islamist groups. We cannot set aside their fears once the Bangsamoro will be in place because of their past experiences.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s of my elementary and high school years, I saw and experienced a world where we, Muslims and Christians, of journeying from one religious universe to another. What we had back then is not mere tolerance, but it was an acceptance of this reality of having multi religions. It was a simple way of expressing "to have lived a religion was to have lived in a world whose values and perspectives reigned supreme and in an absolute manner over human life".

This can be easier said than done. Islam as a way of life had been put to a limited perspective of making it as a political ideology. Thus, the political Islam is a reaction towards particular economic and political conditions of our time. We cannot simply use the lens of historical analysis of the problems. We have now conditions that are happening at a global level that enabled the rise of other fundamentalisms, such as Hindu fundamentalism in India and the New Right in the United States. How ready are we in facing these phenomena? How equip is our schools, government agencies, and even the Armed Forces of the Philippines in looking at the deep root of these realities?

In the recent days and realities in the city, it has become a much complicated situation. The remnants of Maguindanao massacre still lingers in our conscience that we still cry for justice. The bombing in Cotabato Cathedral few years back that killed several innocent civilians remains unsolved, thus, the culture of impunity are slowly being planted in the hearts and minds of our young generations.

What lies ahead in 2014? My gut feel has always been to hope and pray for a better future in Mindanao. The year ahead will give us a whole lot more of challenges of manmade and natural calamities. I am hopeful that we, as Mindanaons, can survive this even further. Thus, for 2014, bring it on.

(For questions/feedback please email: mslidasan@outlook.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 01, 2014.

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