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CRUCIBLE: Dreaming together

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(A message delivered during the 40th Anniversary of Silsilah Dialogue Movement with a theme “Dreaming Together” held at Harmony Village, Sinunuc, Zamboanga City, on 19 May 2024.)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 20 May) – Peace be unto all of you! 

At the outset, allow me to greet everyone in attendance — Happy 40th Anniversary of Silsilah Dialogue Movement!  

Happy birthday, too, Fr. Sebastiano D’ Ambra, the founder of Silsilah Dialogue Movement (SDM) in the Philippines. 

SDM is, so far, the longest and active inter-religious dialogue community of Muslims and Christians in the country that was organized in 1984. 

Indeed, a mere half-day program is not enough for us to reminisce the 40-year history of Silsilah and its inter-religious dialogue tradition. 

On a different but even more important note, it is very rare for someone, like Fr. Seb, to have double whammy celebrations whose life is deeply intertwined with unwavering commitment to the cause of dialogues — dialogue with God, dialogue with the self, dialogue with men and women, and dialogue with creation.

With this idea of dialogue in mind and with a theme of this program “Dreaming together,” I would say that there can’t be as fitting to talk about these than today. 

For sure, it is innate for anyone to dream — to dream for a good life and to dream for a prosperous future. But it is even more beautiful if a dream is shared and realized together with someone or with others. 

Circumstances usually dictate one’s dream. If they are crisis-driven, one’s dream would often be the desire to address such a crisis. The deeper the crisis is, dreaming could be as intense prodding a person, a group or community to better his lot or their situations. 

This was the context of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and the crisis that plagued this southern part of the country when Silsilah was born.  

Living side by side but divided by their religions, culture and tradition, Muslims and Christians including the Lumad needed precisely a new way of looking at things, their beliefs and ways of life. 

For 40 years, the Silsilah had been promoting a culture of holistic dialogue. I got immerse in this culture since 30 years ago in 1994 or ‘95  when the late Ustadh Wadja Esmula, dean of UP-Institute of Islamic Studies that time recommended me to do lecture-dialogue on Islam as a co-partner of a priest who also does lecture-dialogue on Christianity. 

That time, I thought my Silsilah’s engagement would just be, in UP’s lingo, an extension program of a UP faculty doing extension function apart from  teaching and research. 

Upon closer reflection, however, and on a more personal note, those 30 years of engagement in Silsilah reveal important points that can be considered as life changing experience, namely: 

(1) Silsilah serves as part of my truth-seeking endeavor; 

(2) Silsilah facilitates in allowing me to broaden and to find more friends and to forge meaningful friendship with people of different faiths, ethnicities, and orientations;

(3) Silsilah does not only promote a culture of dialogue; at times, it serves as bridge in promoting love including myself wherein, because of Silsilah, I found my love and eventually my wife.

In this regard, I refer to Silsilah not only as center of inter-religious dialogue but a messenger of love. (I can see Fr. Seb and Ate Minda smiling because they are the first ones who know my love story).

Finally, with all my hearts, allow me to congratulate and also to formally express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to:

The Silsilah
Fr. Seb
Ate Minda
Officers and board of Silsilah, 
Administrators, staff, foster families, benefactors and, alumni, coordinators, friends of Silsilah like myself and many others

Who stayed this long through thick and thin, for the last 40 years, while hoping for another fruitful and meaningful years of dialogue ahead. 

Mabuhay sa inyong lahat. Padayon. Wassalamu alaykum! 

(MindaViews is opinion section of MindaNews. Julkipli Wadi is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines.)

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