Religious Education and Peace in the Philippines By Amina Rasul1

I. Introduction

I had been invited to share our Philippine experience on "The Influence of Religious Education in Preventing Radicalism Toward a Culture of Peace"in this conference organized by the Religious Education Research Center of the Ministry of Religious Affair and the Board of National Executives of the Islamic Religious Education Teachers Association of Indonesia. It is a distinct honor to be with you today.

Merriam Webster defines “religious education” as “1: instruction in religion as a subject of general education;2: instruction in the principles of a particular religious faith”. Simply stated by Wikipedia, religious education focuses ona religion’s

“beliefs, doctrines, rituals, customs, rites, and personal roles”. However, my simple mind wants to know: can religious education teach more than these? What is the role of religious education in establishing the foundation for peace? For pluralism?For human rights?Accountability of leaders?For democracy?

The conference looks for answers to the sensitive questions about the role of religion in conflict and in peace, especially since religion has been increasingly present in the public space here in Southeast Asia. Pluralism has always been a factor in our South East Asian societies, as we live in multi-ethnic communities. As the conference note rightly states: “Mutual respect for differences to be a prerequisite for creating a

1President, Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID)

How do we prevent this negative effect from gaining ground? It has been 11 years after the attacks of 9/11. such as the ethnic conflict in Muslim Mindanao. and justice. religious intolerance. and fear of “the other” may negate the successes of pluralism in our communities. we have seen the rise of religious fundamentalism and faith based politics – whether Christian or Muslim. as politics and religion come together.we have seen the rise to power of political parties and movements influenced by religious groups or positions.” Intolerance. the faith-based conservative political parties have won power over the progressives and liberals who had led the revolution in Egypt. is the threat of to social cohesion and fuel for radicalism in society. Globally. prosperity. adding to the rigidity of societal barriers in the “moderate” South East Asian region. on the other hand. support and guidance. identity politics. In times of crisis. . Hindu or Buddhist.peaceful life. political or financial . we also witness the rise of intolerance. Unfortunately. Let us consider developments in the Philippines.If we are not careful. Peaceful life based on mutual respect and mutual acceptance will create a calm life.whether military. Thus. Identity politics and faith have become intertwined in communities that are under threat – like Muslim Mindanao. discrimination. After the Arab Spring. and other places. Tunisia. it is natural for people to turn to religion for comfort. in response to perceived threats . but ordinary Muslims the world over still feel that they are being targeted or profiled as security threats. for instance.What is needed is an appreciation for the diversity within our communitiesand a better understanding of the issues specific to each.

To many in these communities. state attempts at integration. the Muslims or the Moros. is now shared by 3 major groups set apart from each other by their religious and cultural traditions: the Christians. the Islamic. Muslims were 49% of the population. Centuries of conflict have exacted a heavy toll on Muslim-Christian relations in the region. and continuing migration. Christians form the majority with 63% of the population. Stereotypes persist . Today. and the Lumads or the Indigenous Peoples. the religious diversity is often threatened by the conflicts that have periodically conflagrated between the government and the liberation fronts of Muslims struggling for independence---the MNLF and the MILF. On the one hand. One. the Christian. Muslims in the Philippines The history and geography of the Philippines have been carved out of cultural and religious diversity. The other. came peacefully thru trade in the 14th -15th centuries.II. These two religious streams resulted in the Islamization of much of Mindanao and the Christianization of northern (Luzon) and central (Visayas) the Philippines.after centuries of western colonization. The social landscape of Mindanao. Two religious streams entered the Philippines. In 1918.that of the Moros as "uncivilized . Tan) Diversity in Mindanao has been both challenge and a blessing. arrived in the 16th century with the Spanish colonization of the country. their perception of the "other" has been filtered through the sufferings and hardships they and others in their communities have experienced during the decades of armed conflicts. (Samuel K.

But on the other hand. The ethnic war against the Philippine State waged by the MNLF and the MILF since the late 60s. Meanwhile. a peace process had been implemented by national government from the time of former President Marcos to the present. both sides have maintained contrary views concerning the implementation of that framework. Majority of the Mindanaoans get along relatively well. On September 2 1996. the process prolonged by post 9/11 militarization and missteps on both sides.heathens" and the Christians as "land grabbers". The government and the MNLF have been reviewing the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement in order to address the failures of implementation. The military solution to the insurgency did not bring peace and stability to the region. marginalization. There was renewed hope on both sides that peace would finally allow progress and development to take root in the distressed areas of Muslim Mindanao.the positive interface between the cultural practices and faith traditions of the community's diverse inhabitants has enriched Mindanao’s community life. poverty.Now President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has accepted early in his administration that a just peace cannot be attained thru military solution. and perceived loss of identity and sovereignty. Thus. the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been negotiating for peace since 1996. has its roots in the centuries-old struggle against conquest. He has stated that “all out war” will be replaced by “all out justice”. the government and the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement in Manila. with the ethnic conflicts focused against the state. While the good intentions of both parties in agreeing to a framework for Peace thru the implementation of autonomy for the Muslims. recognizing that .

particularly the Catholic Church -. addressing radicalism solely from a hard security perspective risks creating more extremism by alienating communities. Muslims turned inwards to faith. It cannot be denied that Catholicism. Section 6). On the contrary. and lack of human security which are factors that exacerbate radicalization. As harassment and paranoia rose following the association of terrorism with Islam. does get preferential treatment in the public space. the reality is that the Christian churches -.have tremendous influence. And it is in the arena of faith that we too must turn.military strategies will not bring a solution to poverty. A visible proof: most government agencies conduct regular masses for the employees and have shrines of the Virgin Mary installed in . III. the Constitution states: “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. being the faith of the majority. As our Madrasah is the institution to which we turn to educate our children.” In spite of the avowed separation of church and state. forcing them to retreat behind the banner of faith raised by insurgency groups.Church and State in the Philippines The 1987 Philippine Constitution supports the freedom of religion and the separation of Church and State. In its Declaration of Principles and State Policies (Article II. illiteracy and lack of education. have our religious teachers educated them to strengthen the support for and the foundation for peace? Let us take a look at religion and peace in the Philippines.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree 1083 which provided for the codification of Muslim Personal Laws and the establishment of a Shari’a Justice System. IV. The Madaris and Peace . do not enjoy the same privilege. perhaps government should start thinking about the inclusion of an ecumenical/meditation room for all to use. An ecumenical prayer room for all faiths is a rarity. allowing them to access a justice system different from secular civil laws. Muslims access to Shari’a and the madrasah or Islamic education is supported by state. Muslim Filipinos and ethnic communities have been given special consideration or accommodation. with this one visible evidence. Happily. Although peoples of the other faiths have never complained about this.their offices. the Philippines can affirm its commitment to coexistence of all faiths. however. It recognized the uniqueness of the beliefs. beliefs and interests of national cultural communities in the formulation and implementation of state policies. Reality will match rhetoric. Thus. Section 17 of the Philippine Constitution therefore provides that the state shall consider the customs. which applies to all Filipinos. Article XIV. culture and traditions of Muslim Filipinos. The other faiths. traditions. It created Shari’a courts and set up the legal framework for the adjudication of Muslim Personal Laws for Muslim Mindanao. At least.

In 2005. Most Christian universities have Peace Centers and have developed peace education as part of their curriculum. Recognizing the crucial impact and the influential roles of the ulama as catalysts for peace and development. ManarosBoransing. In a survey we conducted (Nov-Dec 2011.” What was missing was the role of Islamic religious education in the development of a culture of peace. Boransing highlighted that “with this curriculum. and (4) Arabic Language taught common to public schools and private Madrasah. (2) Islamic religion. described the features of the government-supported curriculum for Islamic education for our public schools and accredited Madrasah: (1) secular basic education is common to both private Madrasah and public schools. then Education Undersecretary for Muslim Mindanao Affairs. an area where the Christian schools excel. PCID organized a forum on the Madaris where we an assessed the challenges and opportunities for Islamic education in the Philippines. see Table 1) in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao with 4000 respondents. Dr. we now have for the first time one single Philippine educational curriculum with Madrasah as a component in the same manner that Catholic education is a component of Philippine education and Chinese education is a component of Philippine education.Islamic education has also been supported by the State. . the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) worked with the ulama to facilitate national and regional networking among the numerous ulama groups in the Philippines. Dr. by incorporating Islamic Values in public school civic education courses. which is sectarian and only taught in the private Madrasah while (3) secular Islamic Values is offered in public schools.

6 1 1. Table 1.9 5.3 0.3 7.the religious leaders had the highest trust rating at 67%.2 2.5 7. By building strong links.6 8.8 4.2 1.7 4.7 11 Leaders Congressm 18 31 23 13 11 1. Awareness and Trust Rating of Muslim Religious Leaders (as % of total respondents) PERSONS/ INSTITUTIONS Very Much Somewhat Much Undecided Somewhat Little Very Little Refused to answer Not Aware Religious Leaders Elders in the Area Barangay Captain Mayor NGOs Leaders of Voluntary Organizati ons Police Governor 67 39 40 33 33 27 22 38 31 32 30 31 7 12 12 14 18 19 3 5. 4000 respondents .8 an Source: Survey conducted in ARMM by PCID.2 1.7 6.7 0.2 1.2 3.5 23 22 33 33 20 20 11 12 10 8.7 0.6 9.7 0.3 1 1.9 1.4 1. December 2011.8 2. the ulama can become more effective in working on peace and development issues.7 0.4 3.1 Traditional 20 25 20 11 8. The Mayor obtained 33% and the Governor 22% trust rating.3 0.9 8.

Unfortunately. government and international development agencies such as Ausaid and USAID have been funding the upgrading of our madrasah with such programs as Basic Education Assistance in Muslim Mindanao (BEAM) while the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education Program of government provides Islamic content for the public schools in ARMM. they are not as organized as their Christian counterparts who benefit from existing church hierarchy. our religious have been getting more recognition and have become more accessible to government. madrasah graduates are not equipped with the knowledge and skillsto be employed outside of religious teaching. Philippine ulama and madrasah graduates have not been able to fully realize their strategic role in society. . Second. Fortunately. Consequently. we at PCID have helped our Muslim religious organize two networks since 2006: the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines and the Noorus Salam (an organization of Muslim women religious teachers and civil society leaders). Further. This contributes to the high poverty levels in Muslim Mindanao. a number of critical problems prevent our ulama from maximizing their role as educators and the role of the Madaris for the empowerment of a peaceful community. the international development partners as well as national and international NGOs. First. Most madrasah education has exclusively focused on teaching only Arabic and Islamic religious subjects. Thus. With these networks. the lack of teaching materials is a serious obstacle.

an introduction of peace education generated from within the faith will receive support from Muslim leaders and madrasah teachers. PCID invited a friend and colleague. Generally. An Assessment of Muslim Lives:Visits to Muslim Leaders and Institutions in Manila and Mindanao. over ten years ago. pornography. A number of organizations and educational institutions have been involved in peace building. Thus.Many professionals have expressed their concern that the ulama have not provided the community with the teachings to guide them in day-to-day life. Their peace education. Ateneoare a few institutions that have founded peace centers. such as child soldiers. corruption. Notre Dame University in Cotabato. peace approaches promoted by these centers have not been designed for Muslims. has not appropriated Islamic concepts and terms. but we also wish that our ulama are capable of handling cotemporary issues.”2 A woman activist from Zamboanga stated: “We are saddened to compare the qualifications of our ulama and those of the Christian priests. especially if it can be justified as a work from within the community. if not secular. PCID Report 2004 3Ibid . HIV/AIDS. AsnaHusin of Malaysia. Notre Dame of Jolo College in Jolo. which are impregnated with peace norms and messages conveying authentic Islamic principles. In fact the month of September is the Mindanao Month of Peace. a celebration led by the Christian universities in Mindanao. and else.”3 Peace education is not a new initiative in Mindanao and the Philippines. Therefore. “They have been good in teaching our children on how to pray and fast. for our leaders are very ineffective in both their comprehension and communication. to look into the possibility of developing an Islamic peace education to be 2AsnaHusin and Amina Rasul.

I don’t think you have an Islamic basis for your types of jihad. As far as Islam is concerned. However. the idea had provoked criticism. Jolo. “I really don’t know your agenda. 4 5 Ibid Ibid . 4 I agree with Asna’s position that the discussion on jihad al-`aql (empowering the mind) and jihad as a peaceful struggle is an issue which should be discussed with our young. tasawwuf (sufism). However. when Asna informed then that their Islamic research and reading should not be limited to books on fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence or positive law) and hadith (recorded traditions of the Prophet). and analytical tafsir (Quranic exegesis). It seems that jihad al-`aql and jihad al-silm are a forgotten treasure of Islam that needs the creativity of the ulama to reclaim and appropriate it for the benefit of the contemporary ummah and for all humanity5. Most of our ulama explicitly denounced violence and saw terrorist acts as demonizing Islam and tarnishing its peaceful image. One ustadza stated: “violence violate the principles of the Islamic prescription of jihad [just war].developed for our Madaris.” Nevertheless. We had many forums with our Muslim religious leaders.” argued an ulama in my hometown. they became more aware of the richness of Islam’s intellectual heritage. and it should be condemned. some Muslim leaders felt uneasy when reminded that self-criticism and avoidance of a sense of victimization should be on the top of their agenda. similar to the model she had developed for Aceh. but expanded to include usul al-fiqh (Islamic legal theory). falsafah (philosophy). we only know two types of jihad: al-jihad al-asghar [minor struggle or just war] and al-jihad al-akbar [major struggle or strife against one’s own ego].

The Islamic concept of peace is more comprehensive and holistic since it encompasses The UN’s concept of peace – absence of war. It is unfortunate that peace education is not taught within our Madaris. We at PCID therefore developed our own Islamic Peace Education Model in 2006 in collaboration with our ulama. of acceptance of others.” Muslims have to also recognize that “we are ignorant of our Islamic intellectual and spiritual heritage. the ulama and other participants became convinced that our peace initiative shall indeed serve Islam and Muslims. peace with fellow human beings and peace with nature. and have been experimenting with our ustadzas on using it in Muslim Mindanao. absence of injustice. such a vilification of the Islamic faith will not find resonance if we Muslims do not do our fair share. peace within human self. Our learned Muslims and ulama should work within their own communities to promote peaceful action leading to the eradication of the negative image of Islam. However. Muslims have to reclaim Islam’s peaceful heritage for the benefit of the ummah and humanity.” . “We have to acknowledge that some members of our faith have committed gross acts of bloodshed killing women and children in the name of Islam. and ignorance is indeed our real enemy.We are frustrated by the negative image of Islam “being perpetuated by its enemy”. many ulama ask: “Whose interests are you representing?” I think they have chosen to overlook the fact that Islam is a religion of moderation and of peace. and this violence has fed outsiders’ negative perception of Islam. They and us need to neutralize efforts to denigrate Islam either intentionally or out of ignorance. However. and absence of discrimination – while also including the four interconnected dimensions of peace: peace with God (Allah). with our madaris identified as centers that harbor terrorism.

we hosted an International Workshop on Islamic Peace Education where 27 experts came from Afghanistan. or disgrace to the honor of the family or its members. Indonesia.500 people killed while displacing . Participants agreed that Islamic peace education through Madrasah. Pakistan. The engagement of madrasah students and their teachers stems from a desire to influence a community of learners towards performance of their duties and responsibilities in relation to peace-building.266 rido cases that occurred between the years 1930 to 2005. Of the 1. is a unique approach that is not happening in many Muslim countries. Rido is a blood feud or a chain of killings provoked by an affront. Participants also pointed out the need for strengthened cooperation among the different sectors of society. London and the United States. slander. defamation. Many cases of rido are carried on from one generation to another. a single sector cannot perform all the roles in the implementation. Participants recognize that peace education at this stage may be viewed two ways: 1) peace studies as an academic course studied in universities and 2) peace education as developed and implemented by civil society organizations to effect societal change. Malaysia. Bangladesh. being societal in nature. falls under this second category.In December 2010. The horizontal conflict includes the local rido. there were 5. I noted that the violence and conflicts in Muslim Mindanao are not just between the government and the liberation fronts. Considering how all actors in society come from different levels and contexts. Participants remarked that involvement of a wide array of stakeholders in implementing Islamic peace education programs such as government agencies in the Philippines.

thousands. especially the madaris and mosques. Models for the nonviolent resolution of conflicts and peace education had been developed by Christian universities and civil society organizations of Mindanao decades ago. Creating a culture of peace through peace education must complement political attempts and settlements of conflicts. attitudes. Out of the total number of rido cases documented. modes of behavior. As a tool for peace. it is expected to strengthen Islamic religious institutions and leaders so they may play an active role in the management of conflicts and peaceful development of civil society. It is peace education directed at “…education about the values. UN Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace). . Islamic Peace Education captures the values and ideals of Islam as a religion of peace. PCID’s objective with the Islamic Peace Education was not just to develop an indigenous peace education curriculum derived from authentic Islamic values and Bangsamoro cultural traditions butto institutionalize peace education within the existing educational structures of Bangsamoro ulama organizations. and have been adapted for use in Mindanao’s conflict-affected areas over the past two decades. and ways of life that can enable them to resolve any dispute peacefully and in a spirit of respect for human dignity and of tolerance and nondiscrimination (53/243. 64 per cent remain unresolved (source: The Asia Foundation).

advocacy (da’wah). During the time of the Prophet (pbuh). over the 7 years that we have been working with our religious. If we are to bring back hope to our communities. after the horrific Ampatuan Massacre. We believe that the Madrasah. he made the Prophets’s Mosque in Madinah as the center in reforming his ummah (community of believers). In short. Three years ago. life in the hereafter of every Muslim depends on the actions and deeds in the pursuit of their hope to live in “jannah” or heaven. Literacy. should also be the center of community outreach for advocacies and initiatives for community outreach such as peace education. value formation and other community services were provided. we at PCID had a roundtable to look at next steps – how do we help protect our communities? One of the religious said that nothing will work unless we excise the rot that has infected the center of our communities. as our center for learning. sanitation and nutrition. since it is an Arabic term for action. Another said that we cannot wait for outsiders or even government to do this for us – we need to reform ourselves. health. deed or hope. He trained his companions (sahabah) ahabe as community champions especially in . clearly see that any reform agenda to succeed must be include the religious teachers and leaders. particularly the ustadzas. The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy anchors their new conceptual framework on “AMAL” or “Actions for Madrasah-based Advocacies and Learning”. we should take action ourselves. value formation and other advocacy programs geared towards the attainment of sustainable peace and development in Mindanao. literacy. A colleague suggested that we call this initiative “Amal”. education.We at PCID. Muslims believe that their future in the hereafter depends on their “amal” in this world.

have the capacity to guide and motivate their members to move from fear and distrust towards greater understanding and mutual tolerance. IV. However. We need to engage our ulama and imams to become more proactive and thus neutralize negative manipulation by political powers.propagating Islam. especially the Muslim religious. the dialogues. do not really reach the religious actors at the grassroots. Two third of the globe population became believers of Islam. These very effective practices were forgotten by some westernized Muslims. Peace advocates know that the involvement and support of religious actors is critical to the success of peace building in the region. . among others . They focus more on the western education and forgotten the Prophet (pbuh) way in reforming his Ummah. it is the periodic breaking out of armed conflict and political controversies that strain the relationship of the peoples of Mindanao.the ulama. religious professionals . When they truly espouse the goals of dialogue. Those who would use religious differences to recruit followers manipulate the political tensions and differences. Christians and Lumad generally get along as neighbors despite their differences. The contributions of interfaith dialogue programs towards the larger task of peace building in Mindanao are significant. these practices resulted in the spread of Islam around the world. successful at the higher level. the priests and the pastors. Conclusion: the Road to Peace While Muslims. Thus.

A capacitated network of ulama could therefore ensure a stronger voice of the Muslim population for peace and development. To strike a better balance. When our Muslim religious leaders are the ones reaching out to the community. the Philippine Muslim religious leaders need to be capacitated to perform their role as peace and development advocates/workers through partnership building and networking.The problem lies in the manipulation – even the perception of manipulation . ensuring that interfaith coexistence and collaboration are not rhetoricson the national stage but will be alive and well at the community level. it cannot be denied that the Catholic Church has tremendous influence over the State. there will be hope for a peaceful tomorrow. From our actions. capacity and capability development. Reaching out simultaneously – from grassroots and at the national level – will generate more synergy for establishing a truly pluralistic society. similar to the Catholic Church. and other related development skills.of such dialogues. Peace education. can neutralize this tendency towards radicalization. advocacy and lobbying. While Philippine law dictates a separation of Church and State. Sadly. . a brighter tomorrow. Islam has been used to recruit followers for armed struggle by religious extremists. based on our faith. then indeed we will have our “amal”.

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