As war and sectarian violence rage across the Middle East, Central and South Asia, in the Philippines a new Presidential Administration brings hope for an expedited peace process between Christians and Muslims.
In Manila, the Muslim population has rapidly increased to an estimated two and a half million. Many families live in overcrowded encampments in blighted urban areas, overwhelmed by illegal drugs, especially meth-amphetamines that originate in China.
Asia America Initiative’s Catalyst for Peace inter-faith young professionals and volunteer college students conducted a Peace Caravan at Camp Crame Elementary School on the National Police Headquarters. The children who attend include children of police officers, as well as Christian and Muslim children from the “squatter” communities just outside the compound’s locked gate. In addition, students from the Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance school in Cavite attended.
The purpose of the Peace Caravan is to build solidarity and lasting friendships. The goal is to create leaders of the future who will promote and maintain peace.
JOURNEY FOR PEACE
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,000 islands divided by cultural and religious affiliations. Inter-cultural rivalries have created discrimination, disenfranchisement, poverty and armed conflict. Muslim Mindanao region is known to many as a war zone and a land consumed by chaos. The key to breaking cycles of violence is in proper education, including trauma counseling for the youth and interaction between children of various Faiths.
Throughout 2009, AAI’s “Journey to Peace” has been bringing together hundreds of Christian and Muslim students for the first time in their lives. This inter-faith dialogue instills lifelong values of respect for human rights, inter-religious understanding and appreciation of people of every religion and culture.
Using public schools as venues, we create a safe environment for children who come from the “best” and the “worst” private and public schools in Manila, ranging from 2nd grade to early College students. Sharing personal or group experiences, they become compassionate role models to heal and unite the nation. And an example for similar communities in many areas of the world. AAI’s Peace Caravans are supported by the Bishops and Ulema Conference, the Philippine Armed Forces, Ayala Young Leaders Alliance, the Education Alliance, Center for Moderate Islam, Skills and Livelihood Alliance, Young Moro Professionals Network, Youth Alliance Philippines, Peace Talks Philippines, REFUGE, Starfish Magazine, EDSA [Catholic] Shrine, AAI Catalysts for Peace, the National Youth Commission, Haven Crest Media, Assumption College and the Philippine Department of Education.