Pinoys urged: Break ‘invisible wall’ between Muslims, Christians
BAGUIO CITY–As soon as the conflict in Marawi City is resolved, Filipinos must start breaking “an invisible wall” that prevents Muslims and Christians from finding a common ground, a Turkish peace advocate said here on Friday.
Dr. Cihangir Arslan, president of the Pacific Dialogue Foundation, said the three key issues that fuel radical extremism are ignorance, conflict and poverty.
Filipinos, regardless of their religion, must address these by discarding obsolete teachings, promoting peaceful co-existence and improving science and math taught in schools, he said.
“As a foreigner in this country [I see] an invisible wall,” Arslan said at an anti-terror forum at the Baguio Country Club.
He said Christians and Muslims in the Philippines say hello to each other and usually maintain a civil relationship. But Christians do not approach Muslims, and Muslims do not approach Christians for conversations, he said.
“When I asked why, they replied, ‘We don’t want to be converted,’” he said.
Dialog does not lead to a conversion of faith, he said. “We sit, we eat, we drink, we talk. I tell you I respect your ideas, I accept you, understand you as you are, and you accept me, respect me, understand me for what I am,” he said.
Do not sit down and talk about your differences, Arslan said, and discuss instead what unites people.
“I am an educator, I never used a gun in my life,” he said. “As a 42-year-old Muslim, I am proud to say so… The truth… is solving the problem [of extremism] is not by [firing] a weapon,” he added.
“How are you going to solve ignorance? Through education. Education is the best weapon [and is] the antidote to the scourge of terrorism — if you don’t want extremism, if you don’t want radicalism.”
He said the Muslim world faces a wide array of challenges, including socio-economic underdevelopment, lack of stable political institutions, bad governance and corruption, and scientific and technological backwardness.
According to him, more than half of Muslim countries have less than 50 percent literacy rate and their science and technology expenditures are “abysmally low.”
He said 35 Muslim countries are on the top 70 of the 146 surveyed by Transparency International Corruption Index. He said the consequent “sense of deprivation and alienation” has contributed to the emergence of radicalism.
Arslan oversees the Filipino-Turkish Tolerance Schools in Zamboanga City and Manila that teach math and science and universally accepted values.
Ignorance also refers to a Muslim understanding of his or her faith, Arslan said. Muslims, including those in the Philippines, “have to critically [review the depths of] our understanding of Islam,” he said.
“Terrorists are hijacking our religion,” he said, ”by deceiving the weak into believing that killing innocents and becoming suicide bombers earn them passage to heaven.”
He also said poverty is a problem in Mindanao that is shared by many Muslim countries, too.
“In most African and Asian Muslim countries, about half of the population live below the poverty line. Of the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), 22 are [classified as] least developed countries. The collective gross domestic product of the Muslim world is just about 5 percent of the world GDP,” he said. Vincent Cabreza INQ/rga
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