THE Al Qalam Institute recently celebrated a milestone in the Inaugural Bitiala (dialogue) conducted last Monday, June 23rd, at the Bitiala Dialogue and Training Center in Bubong, Barangay Datu Sarip Sinsuat, Cotabato City. As executive director, I was present to meet with and engage in dialogue with our local and international partners.
We were fortunate to have members of the Japanese Embassy and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Economic Minister Masahiro Nakata, present at the ceremony. Also present was JICA first secretary Yosuke Tamabayashi.
Mr. Chetan Kumar, senior advisor for Peacebuilding of the United Nations Development Programme, gave some remarks at this event. He spoke about how the Bitiala center and its services to the communities are “a light in the darkness,” and elaborated on how this will give much needed development to the area.
We were also fortunate enough to have two kinds of dialogues at this event. The first was with our partner organizations and government officials. Present here were MP Susan Anayatin of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), officials and representatives of the City Government of Cotabato, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Cotabato, Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP), Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), Forum Civil Peace Service / forumZFD - Philippines Program, Islamic Relief Philippines, International Organization on Migration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
For the second dialogue, it involved the community stakeholders. These were represented by the sectoral leaders and BLGU Officials of Barangay Datu Sarip Sinsuat (Kalanganan II). This more contextualized approach was also conducted with the rest of the community members facilitated by the Dialogue Facilitators of the Bitiala Center.
This is one of the activities of the Institute in celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month. Our engagements with our partners and stakeholders remind us to be aware of the impacts of our activities. For peace to be truly sustainable, multi-sectoral development such as what the Bitiala Center is trying to achieve is important.
One thing that we were able to appreciate was that this dialogue enabled us to bring both policy makers and grassroots communities to one table. How often is it that these sectors get to speak directly to one another? They could hear from each other’s sides clearly, and could give thoughtful answers to their queries.
It is true what Mr. Kumar said earlier about the Bitiala Center being a light in the darkness. Although the facilities are newly inaugurated, we are working on expanding it for the community to use. It is through here that we are planning to hold capacity development workshops, trainings, and even work towards accrediting the center through the Alternative Learning System (ALS).
These are just some of the ways that Al Qalam hopes to bring peace to the area. The Bitiala Center will play a vital role in our peacebuilding programs for many years to come, especially for the surrounding communities. More than just providing light in the darkness, we and our partners hope to offer solutions that will bring about a sustainable peace within our lifetimes.