Any life that is lost in war is a human life, be it that of an Arab or an Israeli. Innocent children who are deprived of the care and the compassion of their parents are ours, they are ours if they are living on Arab or Israeli land. For the sake of them, for the sake of the lives of our sons and brothers, for the sake of affording our communities the opportunity to work for the progress and happiness of man, feeling secure and with the right to a dignified life, for the generations to come, for a smile on the face of every child born in our land. For all that, I have made my decision to come to you, despite the hazards to deliver my address.
-Anwar Sadat (My Hope for Peace by Jehan Sadat)
“What is the surest way to solve this problem(prejudice and discrimination)?”, Junel Mae Fuentes, 16, a 4th year student of New Society National High School, threw this question to the discussants during the Peacetech Mass Video Conference held at Lagao Gymnasium last March 1.
There is no surest way, Junel, but consider yourself blessed for having that opportunity to attend such event. Prejudice, discrimination, and peace in Mindanao (some parts of Mindanao) are multi-faceted, complex, and baffling. But I’m sure you, and everyone who attended, could contribute to attainment of genuine peace.
“Ethnic prejudice is an antipathy based upon a faulty and inflexible generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group as a whole, or toward an individual because he is a member of that group.” Gordon W. Allport (The Nature of Prejudice, 1954)
When you hear the word “Muslim” what comes to your mind?
I bet a picture of a man whose face is covered, wearing an M16 automatic rifle is one of the pictures that enters your mind. If so, why is that? Probably it’s because every time we see and hear “Muslim” in the media, it usually is associated with kidnapping, bombing, MILF, and Abu Sayyaf. This was the image that stocked up my mind during my childhood years. I grew up in a Christian community, with no Mosque and no Muslims. Never had the chance to interact with them. Television and radio where the sources of information. I could hear this word usually when there were news on war in Mindanao, kidnappings, and bombings.
Today efforts were done by the KBP and other media groups not to use “Muslim” in describing a perpetrator of a crime. It should be clear to us that a Muslim is one who dedicates his life to the teachings of Islam. Islam is a religion of peace. Hence, one can be a Moro or a Maguindanaon or a Tausug, but not a Muslim.
“The biggest influence on the public’s impressions of Muslims, particularly among those who express an unfavorable opinion of Muslims, is what people hear and read in the media. About a third of the public (32 percent)—including nearly half of those who offer a negative opinion of Muslims (48 percent)—say what they have seen or read in the media has had the biggest influence on their views.” (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2007)
Our lack of understanding of the Muslim culture and our limited interaction with them contribute to our prejudices. Same with them, they also have prejudices toward Christians. It is vital that to overcome these negative perceptions we should endeavor to learn more about them, talk to them, eat with them, and hear their stories. Then we’ll realize that we have many things in common: “same hope, same dreams, same expectations, same pain, same fears, same frustrations. We’ll discover that we are “more alike, than we are different.”
On this, Peacetech is successful. It revolutionizes the use of technology as a powerful medium to promote PEACE.
- It provides a venue where exchange of ideas, and expression of feelings, could take place between two distant places of different culture.
- It promotes PEACE as a common agenda to the youth.
- It gives the students a peace experience.
- It reaches a very large audience (about six thousand) in a single event.
- It stresses the importance of the youth involvement in Peace efforts.
- It tries to erase the prejudices and biases in the minds of the students.
- It informs and enjoins the youth on the government’s effort on Peace Process.
- Its creative methodologies (Film Viewing, Live Performance by a celebrity, Audience participation, Interview, Singing theme song, Resolution making, Narration of stories, Web interaction) capture the attention the youth.
In the future, I’m excited to hear about the Sulu-Manila Peacetech mass video conference. It will surely be a fun and barrier-breaking experience.
Once again, Peacetech affirms the universal principle that everyone wants peace. And that everyone could and should contribute—starting by overcoming our own prejudices.