BATANG MINDANAW: Between the Cross and the Crescent Moon. By Arriza Ann S. Nocum

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/04 March) — I am a hybrid.

My mother is a Muslim. My father is a Roman Catholic. I was baptized twice, of both faiths. Family reunions have me greeting “Assalamo Alaikum!” and “God bless!” alternately. Whenever I say, “Thank God!” my mother would add, “And Allah!”

The most skilled and aggressive debaters I know are my parents—like most couples. Yet in terms of what they believe in, I know they have achieved peaceful ground.

The same cannot be said for the rest of Filipino Christians and Muslims. Hundreds of years of religious prejudice have precipitated to so much tension between the two groups. Now, there are more Christians than Muslims in the Philippines. But I have two questions: will there be cooperation if tension exists? Will there be progress if tension exists?

Because of my family’s unique situation, my parents had decided to establish a foundation back in 2001 that would ease tension between the two groups through youth education, through libraries. They called it the “Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library”, or KRIS. Think about it: kids who grow up reading, learning, playing and laughing together would find it difficult to be heirs to the tension their parents had felt.

However, we had come to discover through our libraries that we did not have to teach children anything about peace. We simply had to provide the venue. Without qualms during activities, they would make friends without exceptions. Boys of either faith huddle together to read favourite stories. Girls in “hijab” veils and long-sleeves would be playing tag with their counterparts in skirts and shorts. “Tension” did not exist in their vocabulary.

This is not ignorance of the norm. This is innocence and purity despite the norm.

It is this same innocence and purity that has catapulted heroes out of the youth. They come into this world new, not sure about how to act, what to say, what to think. The prejudices of the world have not yet been cemented in them. It comes as no surprise then that out of the youth come ideas that have revolutionized the world.

At 25, Albert Einstein challenged 300 years of Newtonian physics with the theory of relativity. At 26, Jose Rizal, our national hero published the first out of two books that would help topple 333 years of Spanish oppression.

Note, however, that youth is not exclusively an age.

This is the wisdom of the youth—the ability to reject norms, norms like tension, corruption and worst: the belief that nothing will change.

But I believe that things can change. I do more than believe. I am trying to make things change. Last year, I took on the role of Administrator to KRIS Library. It has not been easy to balance it with my studies, but it has been fulfilling.

People have asked me: what are you doing? Are you stupid? At your age, do you think you can you really help?

I tell them, in maintaining this venue for peace, I am doing my best one child at a time.

Thankfully, I’m in the perfect position to do so because I’m a world between worlds. I am a hybrid. Through my existence, I have already destroyed one norm. Why not move on to the next?

I found life rather than death in the gap between Muslims and Christians. I found a dream in that little space between the Mosque and the Church. I found my own wisdom between the cross and the crescent moon.

Because of these, I thank God. And Allah. (Batang Mindanaw is the youth section of MindaNews. You may send your article, essay, feature, poem, photograph to or Arizza Ann S. Nocum, 16, delivered this speech during the  English Speaking Union’s (ESU) Selection for a Philippine Representative to the international competition in UK,  held at the University of the Philippines School of Economics in Diliman, Quezon City on February 18. She placed second, losing only by a few points. Based in Quezon City, Arizza is the administrator of the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library. She leads the advocacy with her dad, former Zamboanga City-based journalist, Armand Nocum. She is in her 1st year at the University of the Philippines, taking up BS Industrial Engineering).