IN A recent conference, the KAICIID Fellows Network Conference, that I attended I was happy to be back in Vienna, Austria.
The conference was held on December 11 to 12. The conference was in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals hence with a hashtag, #Dialogue4SDGs.
The conference was also successful in highlighting the importance of dialogue in advancing the human rights and the 2030 development agenda.
Together with my fellow alumni in KAICIID, we were able to map and develop synergies among us and with partner institutions in ways that will contribute toward increasing women’s involvement in dialogue, supporting and developing new interreligious dialogue initiatives that will contribute to peace, and also to increase pluralism education to promote social cohesion of dialogue and common citizenship in societies throughout the world.
During the conference, we put emphasis on the principle that KAICIID subscribes to the principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and views the practice of dialogue as fundamentally connected to human rights and advancing the global development agenda.
The conference help us to view ways where dialogue can play a central role in advancing the sustainable development goals, because Dialogue can increase inclusion, respect and improve coordination among all stake-holders.
Moreover, the conference aimed to define the concrete role that Interreligious dialogue has in supporting the following four SDG’s:
• SDG 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
• SDG 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
• SDG 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
• SDG 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
I was part of the panel of speakers that discussed SDG 17.
I discussed in my presentation our work in Al Qalam Institute. In the Al Qalam Institute, we have the unique position of being both academe and community-based.
We have what we call our four major thrusts, our FIRE -- formation, instruction, research, and engagement. Through FIRE, we hope to inculcate in our stakeholders a holistic sense of development. That is, we address conflict in these communities through working for and with the community leaders (whether it is in the local government, in the community, tribal, etc.), as well as ensuring a continuous dialogue with the people on the ground.
The community we have within Al Qalam and in the Ateneo is multicultural and interreligious in nature, and it is through this that have developed our strengths in working for communities that reflect this same demographic.
In addressing violent extremism, for example, we have these things basic social needs that must be present. Identity, sense of purpose, and sense of belongingness -- without these aspects, it creates a vacuum inside a person’s development that leaves them vulnerable to violent narratives and rhetoric. This is why we ensure to provide counter-narratives that offer an alternative course of action. Our theory of change is, if we are able to present these counter-narratives and options to the people on the ground, we can then move and work with them towards creating vibrant, thriving post-conflict communities.
In Cotabato City, we have what we call the Bitiala Center. Bitiala is a Maguindanaoan word that means dialogue, and it is through this center where we address issues that matter to people on the ground.
It is situated in the community of Bubong, Barangay Kalaganan II (Datu Sarip Sinsuat) and we have integrated the locals into the center that we create. We host dialogues, forums, meetings, and capacity building trainings and workshops for the people there, and it is our hope that this newly-created safe space will influence others to do the same.
Our aim is to capacitate local stakeholders and help our communities grow, not just in income but in tolerance, respect, kindness, and dialogue. Resilient communities are ones that can work with other people regardless of faith, race, or creed.
The conference was a great opportunity for us, KAICIID fellows, to meet up and shared our our of dialogue. It also shows us that dialogue is needed in all levels of our communities.