Christians, Muslims urged to teach interfaith understanding to remove wedge – official

"The effort should be vice versa, on both sides," Aleem Jamal Munib, an official of the Davao City Madrasah Development Program, told MindaNews.

"This is very important. If we don't talk, misconceptions would prevail, causing distrust on each other," he said.

Among the key issues splitting mixed communities, Munib said discrimination remained on top.

“It is not only important for the youth to know their faith and culture, they also have to understand the other religions and cultures, especially in the Mindanao setting,” he said.

Interfaith understanding, he added, should be promoted and taught in Mindanao's schools as a support step, “side by side with on-going peace negotiations between the government and the Moro rebels”.

“Beyond the hard and contentious issues of peace negotiations is the hard fact that faith is still very important,” he said, adding that “Islamic knowledge is still key to peace and development in Mindanao especially on the Muslims' side”.

He said educating the Muslims about their faith in the madaris “helps clear the clutter of misconception about Islam and their relationships among other people.

"Islam is peace, but if the youth would not understand that, that's where the problem is," he said.

He said one of their allied organizations was conducting a survey on perceptions of Muslims and Chrisitans towards each other. He said survey would start in Zamboangao City.

But he said both Muslims, Christians and others should not stop on educating their faithful.

Munib said the ulama and asatids, both religious scholars, “are willing to go to Christian dominated schools, colleges and universities to help explain about interfaith dialogue and understanding”.

He said that local governments could also back the efforts of religious and academic leaders saying “such as the putting up of madaris [or Arabic-language schools] for the Muslims and the holding of interfaith discussions among students”.

He said local governments should find a way to invest in this effort, but shouldn't be constrained, too, if they have financial limitations.

But he cited the example set by the City Government of Davao. He said the city government allots at least P10 million a year “to ensure asatidz and ulama are given enough support in running the madaris”.

About 21 ulama supervised some 140 asatids in Davao City. The asatidz ran at least 44 learning centers where 2,500 Muslim youth attend regularly.

He said they still lack at least 15 centers to be able to say every Muslim was covered. But he said the local Muslims were fortunate “because of these opportunities”.

He said LGUs around Mindanao could also replicate what Davao City is doing.