On behalf of the Madaris Volunteer Program Althea Esmael, Salaam Movement Program Manager expresses her gratitude to the people who are continually supporting the program. She also thanked Ateneo de Davao University for deepening her Islamic faith. “Ateneo de Davao is the only Catholic-Jesuit school in the Philippines that hosts Al Qalam Institute, a research and formation center for Islamic identities and interreligious dialogues in Southeast Asia. The Institute helps in accommodating concerns for the welfare of the Muslim students in the university,” she said. Photo by Aivy Rose Villarba.
This is the speech delivered by Ms. Althea Dania Esmael, Salaam Movement (SM) Program Manager during the Maging Daluyan ng Kapayapaan Concert last 18 November 2017 at the Our Lady of the Assumption Chapel, Ateneo de Davao University.
Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu. (May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of our one God be upon you.)
Good evening everyone. Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat. Mapya magabi sa lekanu langun.
“Will I survive in this University, a non-Muslim environment, while practicing my own faith as a Muslim?”
I asked myself this question when I stepped onto college here in Ateneo de Davao in the year 2012.
Alhamdulillah (all praises and thanks be to Allah): my decision to leaving my comfort zone and entering Ateneo de Davao has molded me into a person of conscience, compassion, and with a strong commitment to change.
Born and raised as a Bangsamoro from Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, I am beyond grateful for the continued support of Ateneo de Davao University, not only for the Muslim students of this University but also for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.
When I was still a student, I could still remember that AdDU was there to support us and every activity we did in our club, Salam: The Ateneo Muslim Society. There was not a single proposed event/activity that wasn’t approved, so long as it was for the common good and for the cultivation of our own faith and discovery along our own spiritual journey as well as the nurturance of camaraderie among the Muslim students in the University.
Ateneo de Davao University is the only Catholic-Jesuit school in the Philippines that hosts an organization such as the Al Qalam Institute, a research and formation center for Islamic identities and interreligious dialogues in Southeast Asia. The Institute helps in accommodating concerns for the welfare of the Muslim students in the university. Not only that, but there is also the Salaam Movement—which I am a part of—which is a youth movement that works for genuine peace in the heart of the Bangsamoro areas in Mindanao.
The Madaris Volunteer Program of Ateneo de Davao also continually make breakthroughs with the education system in Bangsamoro schools. They send volunteers to teach DepEd-mandated subjects like English, Math, and Science, at selected privately run Islamic schools (or the madrasa) in selected Bangsamoro areas for a long-term immersive program dedicated to a mission of solidarity.
It is a program of courage, where volunteers go beyond their areas of comfort to deliver service to communities whose cultural, religious, and political landscapes are different from theirs.
It is a program of compassion, where our volunteers and the members of the Bangsamoro communities witness how people can reconcile their differences and develop tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of cultural and religious diversity.
It is a program of connection, where we value human relationships, and where we believe that through the friendships that our volunteers develop with the members of various Bangsamoro communities, we can help foster a culture of peace, not just in Bangsamoro communities, but also in other classrooms in the rest of the country.
Just to share a story, I remember one of my visits to a Bangsamoro madrasa in General Santos City.
It was heartwarming to see children as young as four years old wearing a hijab and trying to learn the Qur’an and Arabic during weekends in their simple madrasa. I attended their first recognition ceremony and all I felt that time was gratitude. Alhamdulillah. You see, they barely have chalk, neither enough books nor tables and chairs—but they were there. The children were there. The very fact that they are striving to learn bearing with them nothing but their dedication to learn the teachings of Islam and their determination to go to school to do so is really worth smiling and melting for.
On behalf of Salam, Al Qalam and the Bangsamoro people:
Thank you, Ateneo, for making us feel that we are very much welcome in the Ateneo Community.
Thank you for letting us be a part of this growing family grounded in mutual respect and faith that does justice.
Thank you for molding and producing men and women for others.
Thank you for standing in solidarity with our struggle for homeland, peace, and prosperity.
Finally, thank you for proving that our “differences” only pave the way for us to wage peace and not war. And thank you, as well, for proving that we are all part of a one big human family bonded by love of God and one another.
I want to share with you this verse from the Qur’an that says:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most mindful of Him. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-aware.
- [ Qur’an 49:13]
And The Prophet (SAW) said:
“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
which resonates with the gospel verse,
“Love your neighbors as yourself; There is no Commandment greater than this.”
With this, I know that one way of expressing my gratitude to Allah, first and foremost, and secondly to the Ateneo de Davao University, is to pay it all forward. I could only do so much but with this message, I hope I was able to inspire you to become one of the reasons why there will be more Bangsamoro children that will be able to learn, develop and grow to be good, hopeful and successful individuals, In shaa Allah.
The Madaris Volunteer Program often relies on the generosity and kindness of people like you to make the program work. Help us in sustaining our activities, trainings, and advocacies with our partner schools in the Bangsamoro by becoming Madaris Volunteers, or by donating any amount using the envelopes located in the pews.
Thank you for your support of and for the Bangsamoro schools and communities. Your donations will go a long way in supporting the greater Jihad or struggle for education among the Bangsamoro children.
May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of God be upon all of you.
Again, good evening.