Peace-Building Together With The Asatidz

When Jalalodden Panganting was a grade 6 student, he became a volunteer Madrasah teacher. As a young lad, he would often admire his teachers’ commitment. He

marveled at their dedication despite the meager financial support the community gives them. Today, 14 years after, Jalal is a full-pledged Madrasah teacher under the Department of Education. However, despite his status as an ISAL teacher, Jajal admits that he still needs a lot of training to develop his teaching skills. Moreover, he laments that many Madrasah teachers find it hard to prepare proper lesson plans and deliver lessons effectively.

For the past several months, Jalal , together with 50 other Madaris teachers from Piagapo , attend the monthly meetings organized by Synergeia Foundation to harness the skills of the teachers. Together with the other ustadz, he highly appreciates the sessions designed to build their pedagogical skills. 

The work with the teachers is part of Synergeia’s program to prevent the rise of violent extremism in the region. In recent years, the Madrasah schools of our Muslim brothers and sisters have been under scrutiny. In the aftermath of the Marawi Siege in 2017, reports showed that the extremists used the Madrasah schools as recruitment grounds. Teachers have debunked the claim. Instead, they have demonstrated that Muslim schools are havens for peace and non-violence.

Ustadz Jabolais Adunar, another teacher from Piagapo, shares that many of the Madrasah teachers are motivated to teach because they want to see the children grow up to become peace-builders in the future. Having seen and experienced the effects of conflict, Ustadz Jabolias only hopes that the younger generation will genuinely live out the true meaning of Islam – peace. 

To help build the skills of the teachers, Synergeia has produced a manual entitled ‘A treasury of Lessons for Madaris.’ The manual promotes teaching the nine crucial values related to peace. These values are: Appreciation for Allah’s Creation, Cleanliness, Responsibility, Self-Discipline, Industry, Honesty and Trust, Humility, Kindness and Compassion, Love for Peace, Tolerance, and Unity. Every meeting, a group of teachers prepare their chosen topic and present a lesson demonstration using the points and activities offered in the manual. A critiquing process follows the demonstration, wherein the other participants comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson presented. Afterward, a Synergeia staff also explains how teachers can use the activities in the manual to teach

the class properly.

Madrasah schools are divided into the traditional madrasah, and the DEPED recognized schools. The former is akin to the Sunday Schools we find in Christian Churches. These traditional schools are open two to three days a week. The community’s children go to them to learn Arabic and deepen their knowledge of the Islamic religion. The latter, on the other hand, are similar to the private-schools. They teach the entire K-12 curriculum with the added Arabic Language and Islamic Values. 

While the teachers in the DEPED accredited schools are all professional teachers, those in the traditional Madrasah schools are community volunteers. Most do not have an education degree, while others wait to be hired within the public school system. 

Traditional Madrasah schools get strong financial support from the community. The community sustains the school’s operations thru weekly and monthly donations. School administrators divide the contributions for the allowance of the teachers and the

supplies needed by the school. The asatidz and ustadz in Piagapo are lucky since the LGU also financially supports some Madrasah teachers of the municipality.

Currently 117 recognized Madrasah schools implement the Standard Madrasah Curriculum in BARMM. The BARMM government, thru the Ministry of Basic, Technical and Higher Education (MBTHE), recognizes the importance of the Madrasah school in the

academic and moral formation of Muslim children. In recent months, financial subsidies to support public and private Madaris across the region have continued to pour. These subsidies are essential for the upkeep of the Madrasah schools in the area. Many private and traditional Madrasah centers often find themselves sitting in dilapidated buildings needing many repairs. Teachers

would also require better materials and capability-building sessions to improve their skills.

Given all these concerns and needs of the Madaris schools, Teacher Jalal and his companions are more than grateful for the training they receive every month from Synergeia Foundation.

He says, “Sa ngayon nagpapasalamat kami sa Synergeia, kasi malaki ang improvement na natutunan namin sa inyo. Unang-una po ay natutunan naming paano kami mag-lesson plan. Nadagdagan ang kaalaman naming sa lesson plan. At dahil dun, mas na-enganyo kami magturo ng mga bata.”

But Jalal does not only keep the skills he has learned in the meetings to himself. Together with a group of other teachers, he goes around three other Madrasah

schools every Thursday and shares the ideas and strategies he learned from the monthly meetings. His group has taught 40 other teachers about developing proper lesson plans. He also discusses each unit of the manual with them.

Indeed, Jalal has gone a long way. The former Grade 6 volunteer has come full circle; from teaching his companions in school, he is now a guide to his fellow madrasah teachers.

KaPEACEtahan KABATAAN

“YOUTH on PEACE and ARTS FESTIVAL”

Violent extremism, among the youth of today, concerned most of the society in all parts of the world. Some Muslim youth, due to lack of opportunity, gradually resulted in such options.  In the context of Sulu where its residents had been at war for almost a decade, people long for peace and stability in their native land, and placed high hopes to the youth of Sulu, believing that one day, with these youth, they can overcome this challenge as they bring pride to their fatherland. 

 Thus, Synergiea in collaboration with the Jolo Municipality Women’s Council (JMWC), the Local Yourh Development Office and Sanguniang Kabataan ng Jolo organized KaPEACEtahan KABATAAN “YOUTH on PEACE and ARTS FESTIVAL” that aims to help build peace together with the youth from the different barangays in Jolo. These organizations had long been very supportive to such agenda such that they organized a festival that shall enhance the youth in building their potentials in arts by showcasing their talents in singing, dancing, acting and poster painting which were witnessed by different barangay representatives such as SK officers, parents and guardians, LGU’s, Barangay officials, some students, and other stakeholders in the community.

Further, the event is to achieve the following objectives:

  • To enlighten the youth and to use their skills on arts to raise awareness on acts of violent extremism.
  • To capacitate the SK and other youth organizations through arts, with the participation of the community stakeholders to eradicate the influence of violent extremism among young children.
  • To showcase the talent on Arts among Tausug youth.

Starting with preliminaries such as registration spearheaded by secretariat from Jolo Municipality’s Women Council , and a prayer led by  Mr. Ruhoddin S. Saabdulla, Jolo Tourism Officer II; the Singing of the Philippine National Anthem, the event emceed by Mr. Nash Abduhadi, commenced.

Afterwards, a Welcome Message delivered by Hja. Nur-Rayhan Alfad Tan, RN, President of the JMWC was delivered. She thanked everyone in presence especially Synergeia for spearheading such momentous event and a big opportunity for the talented youth of Sulu. As the head of Jolo Municipality’s Women Council, she encouraged everyone to believe that “men or women, young or old, everybody has a part to play and has a role to fulfill. Only by being given the opportunity, one can shine.”  Her words had truly inspired the audience.

Afterwards, Mr. Elsimir Tawasil, the program officer of Synergeia read the objectives for today’s festival and introduced the other speakers for this event, Mr. Edsir A. Tan II, Councilor and also member of the committee on Peace; and Hon. Kerkhar S. Tan, Mayor of Sulu. All of them inspired the audience especially the youth attendees by emphasizing on the significance of their role in the society.

Hon. Kerkhar S. Tan couldn’t help himself but mention numerous times how big the contribution of the youth is in PVE. According to him, “It takes a village to raise a child. So we must take care of that village.” He emphasized that by looking out for the society, we also look out for our children.

To entertain all the participants, an intermission number was presented by Jolo Tausug Artist followed by the presentation of Jolo youth artists’ masterpieces from Barangay Alat, Asturias, Bus-Bus, Chinese Pier in a form of Canvas painting.

Not only youth from Barangay Chinese Pier showcased their talent in painting but also in bodily-kinesthetic aspect when the Barangay Chinese Pier Youth, whom are also KKDAT-Regional Chamipon for Interpretative Dance, performed an astounding and applauded dance. Thereafter, youth artists’ from Barangay Sanraymundo, Takut-Takut, Tulay and Walled City presented their masterpiesces Pier in a form of Canvas painting as well.

These are the masterpieces presented along with a brief interpretation provided by the artists during the activity:

“Rainbow symbolizes gender equality. Nakedness of people depicts equality despite wealth, position and status differences. The different colors signify culture equality, no stereotyping example, between Tausugs and Badjaos. The Dove symbolizes purity.”
“Mother nature for me symbolizes peace. Unity between Muslims and Christians or “Kagandahan ng pakikipag-kapwa”as well as each of them hides beauty in their differences”
Peace is positive change and always choosing for the betterment. The Earth symbolizes prosperity. People holding hands for love and good relationship towards each other. The church, mosque and mosque for unity despite adversity. Book for knowledge and guidance.”
Mosques as place of worship for Muslims. Frontliners are also included as they stayed strong despite all the difficulties during pandemic, we heal as one along with hospitals and LGU for the support. There is also heart with the word “salam” that symbolizes the love for each religion, be it Christians or Muslims. Roles of youth- leadership, courage, respect, technology are also included in the painting”
For us, Peace is free from worries about one’s health or anything, It is the feeling of silence, serenity, and nostalgia that could be found in a person or place and for us, it is Sapah Mading, a lake in Sulu. Long before when going to hinterlands were still scary because of terrorism, kidnappings, etc., it was hard even for the natives of Jolo to visit such beautiful places. However, peace changed that and made us see the many wonders hidden in our motherland.”
“This is an abstract painting of a face to symbolize how peace looks like in Sulu. The difference in the color of two sides symbolizes how one transitions from the blasts of emotions (depicted by multitudes of color) to inner peace (with blue background).”
The hand symbolizes how only us, human beings, can achieve our own peace. If we do not move or take action, peace is likely to be elusive. The stairs symbolize how peace paves the way to progress and people at the center of the painting symbolizes how human relationship is the core to achieving peace.”

These masterpieces were judged with a criteria read by Mr. Elsimir Tawasil. The winners were announced by the chairman of the Board of Judges. They are the following along with their prizes. Everybody felt like winners as a consolation prize of 2,000 pesos was given.

1st prize (10,000 pesos) – Barangay Tulay

2nd prize (7,000 pesos) – Barangay Bus-Bus

3rd prize (5,000 pesos) – Barangay Chinese Pier

The activity ended with a closing remarks delivered by Hon. Farrenz A. Tan, SK Federation President who pledged to take their part in Preventing Violent Extremism. They promised to be an example and a model to the youth by being kind, honest, respectful, and all the values a Tausug youth can ever possess. They also would like to finish their studies to be an asset in their family, in their community and moreover, to Lupah Sug. After his speech, there was a photo opportunity for everyone.

The said activity was highly praised by SK-Sanggunian Kabataan and other youth groups which they concluded that the youth of Sulu should be proud of their heritages in Arts and Culture that once flourished during its time as a Sultanate and Kingdom. With the huge support from JMWC and BLGU representatives whom helped organize and arrange the activity, the activity was indeed an over-all a success.

THE BARANGAY JUSTICE SYSTEM : A COMMUNITY VIEW

The Barangay Justice system has been around in the Philippine Justice System since 1978. Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos enacted PD 1508 to institutionalize the creation of Barangay Courts throughout the country. The law creating the system recognized the Filipinos’ time-honored tradition of settling disputes amicably within the confines of the family and the community. It also aimed at decongesting the courts with pending cases. 

After the Edsa Revolution, the establishment of the Barangay Justice System became part of the 1991 Local Government Code. The code highlighted the strength of the Barangay Justice System lies in the community. 

But how far are community members aware of the functions of the Barangay Justice System? How many of them, do in fact, believe that it can be part of the efforts to build peace in the community?

To answer these questions, Synergeia, in partnership with the Global Community Engagement Resilience Fund (GCERF), conducted a series of town-hall meetings in the municipalities of Piagapo , Lanao Del Sur; Buldon, Maguindanao, and Jolo, Sulu. The activity is a part of a broader program that Synergeia conducts in BARMM in partnership with GCERF. 

In 2020, Synergeia launched Project BRAVE ( Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism) in the three previously mentioned municipalities and the Municipality of Kapatagan, Lanao Del Sur. The whole project aims to mobilize communities to create strategies to prevent violent extremism (PVE). It calls for Local School Boards and School Governing Councils to make PVE activities part of their community action plans. The project also recognizes the need to establish effective grievance systems in the community and allow members to resolve conflicts peacefully. In acknowledging the need for a grievance system, Synergeia has included raising the awareness level of the community on the Barangay Justice System. It also will implement activities to help members of the Lupong Tagapamayapa ( Barangay Courts) better dispense their duties to the community.

So what were the results of the town hall meeting?

A look at some of the results of the baseline assessment conducted at the start of the meeting, revealed the following:

  • Seventy-five percent (75% out of a total of 239 participants ) had no experience with the Barangay Justice System. 
  • 49.72% – thought that it referred to the community assembly held to discuss government programs.
  • Almost everyone ( 93%) knew that the Barangay Captain sits as the head. 
  • Half of the respondents were aware that some prefer to settle disputes outside the Barangay Justice System.
  • 76% believed that timidity was the main reason for settling disputes outside the barangay.  
  • A quarter of disputes are settled amicably between conflicting parties; ANother quarter mentioned that they sought the help of the Barangay Chairman. 12% would approach their elders. 13% went directly to the police to ask for assistance. 

From those who already experienced being part of the Barangay Justice System, Synergeia was able to gather the following: 

  • The most common cases brought to the attention of the Barangay Courts were:
  • Family Conflicts
  • Conflicts between neighbors and other community members
  • Trespassing
  • Non-payment of Debts

-87% shared that the Barangay Chairman helped resolve the conflict by calling everyone involved and listening to both sides.

Towards the end of the workshops, the participants also shared their commitments to strengthen the Barangay Justice System.

Apipa Acoon, a participant from Piagapo promised to campaign, “about the existing Barangay Justice System to her constituents. She will also encourage them to raise disputes to the Barangay at once. 

A young participant spoke of the need to be vigilant about his surroundings and be courageous enough to report suspicious activities to the Barangay Officials. 

 Babuh Amma , from Jolo emphasized the need to listen to both sides and avoid the trap of believing in baseless assumptions.

Overall the respondents had a consensus on how to strengthen the Barangay Justice System. More than half suggested the following steps: 

  • Build the capacity of the residents to understand what their rights are.
  • Build the skills of the barangay on conflict-mediation.

– Organize more barangay assemblies.

– Enable the residents to become more familiar with the responsibilities of the barangays

Synergeia will strive to work on these suggestions in our upcoming activities under Project Brave. In doing so, we do hope to make the Barangay Justice System an effective tool for peace-building. 

raldana@synergeia.org.ph