Peace dialogues win it for PH think tank

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MANILA, Philippines—A Philippine think tank dedicated to the study of Islamic and democratic political thought and the development of Muslim communities has gained international recognition for a series of interfaith dialogues dedicated toward peace-building and harmony.

The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) won the silver medal and a cash prize of $15,000 at the World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize 2013 administered by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, an international Islamic nongovernmental independent institute headquartered in Amman, Jordan.

“In light of the Sabah crisis, this award provides a small window for joy in the middle of sorrow,” said PCID president Amina Rasul in an e-mailed interview with the INQUIRER.

The awards are part of the international observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which was proposed to the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 by King Abdullah II of Jordan. It was unanimously adopted by the UN the same year and, henceforth, the first week of February has been dedicated to World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The winning event “A Common Word Toward A Common Peace” refers to a series of dialogues among religious groups and other sectors in peace building and harmony among Filipinos of all faiths.  It has been implemented by the PCID in partnership with Noorus Salam, an organization of Muslim religious women teachers and civil society leaders, and supported by the Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc. (MKFI).

PCID has been trying to popularize A Common Word (ACW) among the Muslim religious teachers and leaders since 2007, said Rasul.

“ACW provided us with the answer—that interfaith dialogue is supported by Islam, a faith which has as its main commandments the love of God and the love of neighbor. We have therefore been conducting intrafaith discussions for over five years now, trying to promote interfaith harmony from the Islamic perspective. Winning the award provides us with encouragement that we are on the right track,” Rasul said.

The awarding ceremony will be held on April 25 at the site where Jesus Christ was baptized by the River Jordan in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The grand prize of $25,000 and a gold medal will be awarded to the Interfaith Mediation Centre, Kaduna, for the event “Imam and Pastor from Vengeance to Forgiveness” in Nigeria.

The third prize of $5,000 and a bronze medal will be awarded to the Department of National Unity and Integration for the event “World Interfaith Harmony Week 2013” in Malaysia.

Rasul said the $15,000 prize would be used to support PCID’s work on peace building. “All the promised funding for work to capacitate our Muslim religious leaders have not materialized, for one reason or another. Thus, PCID will use part of the funds to support Noorus Salam’s operations in the National Capital Region, Cebu City, Zamboanga City and Iligan City,” she said.

Meanwhile, two runners-up will be given certificates of “honorable mention,” including another group from the Philippines. A first honorable mention certificate will be awarded to the Silsilah Forum Davao for the events “Student Leaders’ Confluence for Harmony and Signing of Covenant Ceremony” in the Philippines. The Second Honorable Mention will be awarded to the Tro i Harmoni (Faiths in Harmony) for their event “Faith, Hope and Love” in Denmark.