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The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in cooperation with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) - Policy Center and the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation hosted the 79th Edition of the Globalization Lecture Series on "Waging Peace Through Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation"
highlighted by the experiences shared by 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Peace and International Understanding, Ahmad Syafii Maarif of Indonesia. The event, which featured an open forum via videoconference, participated in by the Indonesian and Filipino community in Jakarta was held at the AIM-World Bank (WB) Global Distance Learning Center at AIM, Makati City on September 2.
Maarif opened the talk sharing his own experiences in his native land of Indonesia on how he managed to foster peace amidst the richly diverse and culturally different expressions of Islam in Indonesia together with other world faiths. His discussion was built from a very definitive statement expressing his belief that interfaith dialogue is attainable and necessary.
He said, "...creating a sincere brotherhood between different faiths is not only possible but necessary - and surprisingly beautiful." He also believes that the key to a peaceful coexistence among people of different faiths (including atheists) is the welcoming nature of all parties to espouse "mutual respect" with no ulterior motive to eliminate each other.
Despite having to endure doubts and questioning from traditional Indonesian scholars on his rather liberal and open view of Islam, Maarif, drawing from his involvement and influence in the Muhammadiyah as one of the biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia, persisted on sharing his enlightening views of the Qur'an that enabled him to promote and correct the biased and erroneous views against Indonesian Islam as being tied up to terrorism and radical interpretation of their own Islamic faith.
Apart from leading the interfaith dialogue with conventional Muslim as well as non-Muslim leaders, Maarif also shared some concrete instances wherein dialogue turned into effective manifestations of cooperation citing the collaboration of Muslim and Catholic leaders to provide aid when the Aceh province was devastated by a Tsunami in 2004. He also named, among other existing initiatives, the Good Governance Project spearheaded by the Maarif Insitute, which he founded in 2003 together with other interfaith leaders.
The project aims to find facts on how local governments perform their jobs to serve the people effectively and efficiently in their own territories.
After the talk of Maarif, three panelists shared their own views and reflections on the subject matter. They are: Ms. Amina Rasul-Bernardo, one of the leading Muslim leaders in the Philippines and the Lead Convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy and Ms. Maria Teresa Guingona-Africa, Executive Director of the Peacemakers' Circle Foundation, Inc.
Rasul-Bernardo shared various movements attesting to the success of interfaith dialogues among various religious leaders with particular emphasis on the Philippine context wherein she said that since the start of the Moro National Liberation Front's (MNLF) fight for independence, the involvement of Christian leaders together with the NGOs has reduced divisiveness and fostered continuous dialogue on looking at solutions related to the conflicts in Mindanao. However, she expressed worry on the attainment of effective dialogue given that the government and policy makers cannot deliver on its commitment to resolving the said conflicts. Meanwhile, Guingona-Africa focused on the need for a peace process and dialogue that responds to the call of the times saying that the quality of questions in the dialogue is important.
Members of the Philippine community, headed by Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul General, Mr. Catalino Dilem Jr. of the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta and the students and colleagues of Ahmad Syafii Maarif in Indonesia participated in the open forum that eventually followed.
Finally, Dr. Federico Macaranas, Executive Director of the AIM-Policy Center summed up the discussions of the forum giving emphasis on the need to address two dimensions of our society: spiritual and material. He likened the fates of both the Philippines and Indonesia in the sense that they both share the same economic deprivations and advocated that peace is not just the short-term opportunity for a cease fire but is constantly being attained by an interfaith dialogue that is tantamount to good governance.
Giving reference to Dr. Ahmad Maarif, Macaranas also stressed that the greatness of spirit and selfless service embodied by the Ramon Magsaysay awardee is needed in our times.