Lidasan: Using our shared fraternity as a call to humanity

EXCERPTS of the Keynote Speech of Member of Parliament Datu Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Executive Director of the Al Qalam Institute, for the State Visit of H.E. Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, to the Philippines:

Your Excellency President Halimah Yacob of the Republic of Singapore, Mr. Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, members of the Singaporean government and the diplomatic corps, Rev Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J., President of the Ateneo de Davao University, delegates from the Philippine government, distinguished guests, members of the Ateneo community, ladies and gentlemen.

Assalamu alaikum waramatullahi wabarakatuhu. Greetings of peace!

It is my honor and privilege to be able to deliver my thoughts on such an important matter of state. In my day-to-day life, I wear many hats: As a member of the Bangsamoro Parliament, as Executive Director of the Al Qalam Institute, as a husband, a father, an Iranun, a Filipino citizen. Oftentimes I find that I must wear these roles simultaneously. Allow me to speak on the bonds of fraternity that have been formed within the Ateneo, towards the Bangsamoro and the Filipino nation, and to the vital and important relationship between the Philippines and Singapore.

Here in the Calungsod-San Vitores Hall, and in many other areas of the Ateneo de Davao, we have constructed safe spaces for our community and our youth to discuss critical issues. The Ateneo has always been outspoken about issues of national importance, whether it is on political processes, the environment, and especially on the Bangsamoro.

As Al Qalam, we strive to work towards excellent formation, instruction, research, and engagement in areas that need it most. We engage in discussions called Bitiala sessions (Bitiala being a Maguindanaoan word for dialogue) with our stakeholders, we work together with Muslim Student Associations or MSAs, and we have our Bitiala Center in Cotabato City in order to serve our communities in a much more direct manner.

These are but small steps towards the greater scope of nation building. Chief Minister Ahod “”Al Haj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim has called for the new Bangsamoro government to subscribe to a moral governance. We reflect on the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together as signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb as a reference for the kind of moral governance that we all envision.

A morally-sound government allows for a prosperous nation, but also demands a lot of its leaders. It brings to mind the words of a great statesman, Singapore’s own Lee Kuan Yew: “A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history.” In this matter, the Philippines and Singapore share deep similarities that go beyond mere geography.

The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together as applied to our bilateral relationship is already in action, especially in the following ways:

Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity; and in Dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here, transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions aim for. It also means avoiding unproductive discussions.

It is clear that, from these provisions found in the document, that we cannot sit idle. Dialogues are the first step towards coming together and finding concrete solutions to societal ills. We cannot stand and sit in our ivory towers as conflict and terror happen to our communities.

As persons, we are all granted free will to be able to make our own decisions. What better expression of human fraternity is there than to choose to sit with others who are different from you, and learning from them?

Because we are one community in the Ateneo, any act of hate or injustice towards one is injustice towards all. This sense of social responsibility and love for our brothers and sisters is something that we hope to foster not just in our youth, but in communities outside as well.

We are also called by this document to put these discussions, these dialogues, into action. Our friendship with the Republic of Singapore does not stop here, Madam President.

These steps, in celebration of the friendship between the Republic of the Philippines and Singapore, will hopefully usher in a new era of a deepened relationship between our two countries.

Let us end this note by issuing a challenge to those of you who are listening: what will you respond when you are called to act on your own humanity? In the face of so many injustices that face our countries, whether domestic or foreign, what will your response be?

If anything, let this dialogue between our two countries serve as a catalyst to call on others to act in fraternity and in humanity for others.

Shukran, and thank you very much. Good noon.


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