THE year 2017 has been a good year for Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University. Our work in terms of inter and intra religious dialogue in the past years has expanded not only within the University but also within our partner institutions and organisations in South East Asia, France, and Germany.
During the first quarter of the year, the major activities and programs of Al Qalam was focused on the prevention and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). Last March 16 - 18, 2017, we conducted the Experts Meeting Workshop on P/CVE at Mandaya Hotel, Davao City. The workshop was able to gather group of experts in P/CVE to discuss how to handle the rise of supporters and followers of the violent extremist ideologies. It was also able to come up with strategic goals and tactical plans in how to conduct P/CVE.
The other major activity was Al Qalam’s participation in the international conference entitled The Rise of Asia Conference Series. The Conference highlighted three (3) main countries in Asia that will reshape world socio political and economic landscape. These three countries are China, India, and Indonesia.
Our advocacy work in supporting the Bangsamoro peace process had also led to our active role in the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Al Qalam’s experiences and research work in terms of Islamic Finance were incorporated in the specific provisions of the BBL.
In the 2nd quarter, Marawi Crisis happened. Al Qalam together with our partner student organisations like the Salam: Ateneo Muslim Society, Salaam Movement, and various Bangsamoro youth groups were the first responders in providing relief assistance to the victims of the crisis.
Moreover, Al Qalam also partnered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Japanese Government to explore the possibility of sustainable program for Mindanao in terms of P/CVE.
Within the year, Al Qalam also partnered with UNDP, UN Women, UNODC, UNOTC, UNV, and UN CTED for series of workshops on P/CVE in Bangkok, Thailand and Indonesia. It is not unknown to everyone that local extremist groups with support from international violent extremist organizations is starting to grow in many areas in Mindanao and other places in the Philippines.
Al Qalam Institute’s work on the Prevention of Violent Extremism and Countering Violent Extremism (PVE and CVE) in partnership with many local, national, and international organizations, we have found out that although there is no definite profile for those who are vulnerable to the recruitment of violent extremist groups, they share common sentiments summed up into three: a. Crisis of Identity; b. Longing for a Sense of Belongingness; c. Quest for a Sense of Purpose.”
Violent extremist groups exploit these weaknesses that are not too hard to find in the Bangsamoro Youth. The lack of understanding to their identity, the denial of their rights to self- determination and the struggle to take back not only their territory but their identity as Muslims and as humans cultivate a fertile ground for violent extremists groups to splurge. These groups effectively exploit these growing sense among the Bangsamoro Youth by crafting an effective narrative mixed with faulty religious and apocalyptical arguments.
Al Qalam recognizes the need for our country to build a one community where the Moro Identity is provided a place in the Filipino nation’s story, where their identity is recognized so they become more loyal to the Philippine flag—the symbol of our freedom and democracy is our lasting legacy for our next generation.
Moreover, Al Qalam Institute is a member of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the AFP’s Multi Sectoral Advisory Group (MSAG). With this participation in the MSAG, Al Qalam conducted series of P/CVE orientation, seminar, and workshop with different sectors in Mindanao (Davao, Butuan, General Santos). The MSAG became a platform for collaboration and “safe space” for different groups to understand and tackle violent extremism. The MSAG is the committee that monitors human rights violations and provide guidance to the soldiers in the enforcement of martial law provisions.
In partnership with the Madaris Volunteer Program (MVP) of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (Ceap), conducted a training on Conflict Transformation and Peace Building Network last August 28-30, 2017 at Conference Room E, Ateneo Community Center, AdDU Jacinto Campus. The invited participants were youth leaders from Maguindanao and the nine MVP Volunteers.
The training was designed to support the work of the MVP Volunteers as teachers in the Madaris and to teach the young Moro leaders the tools and skills of transformative mediation for peace building. We also followed the Peace-building Toolkit for Educators of the USIP as a guide. We combined the two groups to work together to form part of force multipliers in peace building network in Maguindanao. The word Madaris refers to the Islamic schools or Madrasah.
Lastly, Al Qalam also conducted a Baseline Survey on the Role of Muslim Religious Leaders in the Philippines. This study aims to recognize and understand the significant role of Muslim religious leaders in the promotion of dialogue, unity, peace and sustainable development. The report emphasizes the variety of understanding their characterizations and expected roles, duties and obligations, as well as the determination of their principal roles, duties and obligations among Muslim youth.
We look forward for many more activities, programs, and projects in the years to come. With our wide network and mass base partners in Mindanao, we hope that we can help in shaping a better future for our people within the Bangsamoro and South East Asian region.