By Rexcel Sorza, IOL Correspondent
MANILA — Two Christian artists who have witnessed how Muslims survive marginalization in this largely Catholic state have lent their voices to Filipino Muslims through a new documentary.
“Muslims have struggled to live their lives in dignity despite experiences of prejudice and discrimination against them by their non-Muslim neighbors, colleagues, would-be employers, teachers and classmates,” Marites Guingona-Africa, founder and executive director of the Peacemakers’ Circle which put together the documentary, told IslamOnline.net.
The “In the Light of the Crescent Moon” tells about the plight of Muslims in Metro Manila and gives voice to the Muslims in the metropolis whose voices are not often heard.
“To this day,” Guingona-Africa said, “there is not much interest in the plight of Muslims in Metro Manila. Thus, support for the work of building relationships between Muslims and Christians in the metropolis has been difficult to come by.”
She asserted that many Muslim friends have succeeded, despite the difficulties and the challenges.
“Theirs are the stories that need to be told. Theirs are the voices that need to be heard.
“As peacemakers who have borne witness to their struggles, we feel that if we are to be true to our calling as ‘peacemakers,’ we owe it to them and to our selves, to help our fellow human beings tell their stories.”
The documentary was produced on a shoestring budget of P98,000 [P52=$1].
The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation is a non-stock, non-profit, and partisan organization composed of members of diverse religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions.
Its members believe in the oneness of humanity, and subscribe to the principles of unity in diversity, good will, and cooperation.
Guingona-Africa hopes the documentary will inspire people of different faiths and cultures – in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world — to build relationships of peace through dialogue.
In the documentary, the Christian narrators share their experiences in building relationships between Muslims and Christians in grassroots communities.
By highlighting the experiences of Muslims and Christians in a village in the Metro Manila city of Caloocan, they promote dialogue which “is a way of love that is in the heart of Muslims and Christians alike,” she said.
Through the stories, the viewers are made aware of the fact that “there is goodness in the light of Islam” and that despite their differences in culture and beliefs, Muslims and Christians share the same aspirations for peace, justice, and wellbeing for themselves and their families.
They also get to realize that through Muslim-Christian dialogue a peaceful and harmonious relationship between these two groups of people is possible.
Guingona-Africa said that this project was thought of because “not much is being done to help the growing number of Muslims who have come to the metropolis [the capital Metro Manila] seeking better lives for themselves and their families.”
For example, she noted, not many Christians in the predominantly Christian metropolis are aware of the fact that there are now at least 115 mosques in Metro Manila, and that where there are mosques, there are thriving Muslims communities.
“These communities are now found in areas around the metropolis that were once solely occupied by Christians.”
The documentary itself stands as an example of Christian-Muslim cooperation.
Muslims and Christians who have been involved in the endeavor of building relationships of peace in the grassroots community in Caloocan City worked for the project.
Muslims from various organizations and groups such as the Young Moro Professionals, the Center for Moderate Muslims, FilMus, Agama Islam Society, and individuals who are committed to the endeavor of promoting peace between Muslims and Christians in Metro Manila also put in their resources.
This project was made possible with the help and support of the Office on Muslim Affairs in the National Capital Region.
Guingona-Africa said their group wants as many people in Metro Manila and the whole Philippines to see the documentary.
“It is for this reason that we are about to embark on a campus tour to show the video and invite students from as many colleges and universities to ask questions about Islam and Muslims.”
She went on: “We will have a touring team composed of Muslims and Christians who will be ready to respond to the student’s queries.”
They also hope to be able to take their documentary to various government and non-government agencies for viewing and discussion.
“I think that on the whole–despite its flaws–the video documentary is serving its purpose, that is: to promote awareness of the need for Muslims-Christian dialogue and relationship-building in Metro Manila, as in elsewhere in the country and the world.”
Largely Catholic Philippines has an estimated Muslim minority of around eight million or ten percent of the population.