With her intent to encourage and promote dialogue, not just within a society but across societies, President of the Republic of Singapore Her Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob visited Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) last September 11 to have dialogue with the youth from different ethnicities and religions in Mindanao.
The dialogue, which was held at 11th Flr, Community Center of the First Companions, started with a speech from the University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ expressing his gratitude to the Singapore president.
“As a promoter of women’s rights, welfare of underprivileged, marginalized, environment and advocate of interreligious dialogue, we are delighted that Madam Halimah Yakob set aside time to share her wisdom with our youth,” he said.
Tabora continued his speech saying that Mindanao has had its roots in social injustice and interreligious conflict between Muslims, Indigenous Peoples, and Christians.
As a response to Tabora’s statement, Yacob stressed the importance of dialogue in promoting peace and seizing prosperity in an ethnically diverse society.
“The world today is becoming increasingly complex with people’s goals and ideas moving more freely than ever across borders. Constant dialogue and engagement, just like what we are doing now, is key to building trust and understanding in a society,” she said.
Yacob also emphasized that people now see extremism and exclusivism growing stronger. “A society is fragile if one group views another as a threat. It is important to overcome the forces of division and build bridges instead of walls.”
She furthered that as a manifestation of its effort in attaining mutual respect, Singapore hosted the Inaugural Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) last June with over a thousand participants from nearly 40 countries.
“It was a platform for international fought leaders across academia, government, religious groups, civil society and young leaders to engage in constructive dialogue. This shared about the challenges of social harmony in the society they live in and discuss how to better forge trust and mutual understanding so as to strengthen social cohesion,” Yacob added.
Yacob likened Singapore with Mindanao in its direction towards a harmonious culture rooted in respect. She stated that by such action, it makes a more vibrant and inclusive society.
“All of us have a part to play in shaping the future where everyone of us stands together side by side regardless of race, religion or language.” she said.
Yacob ended her speech saying that dialogue is a process that requires sustained effort, commitment and a genuine interest in gaining understanding and acceptance in spite of differences in opinion and conviction.
Meanwhile, prior to Yacob’s arrival, a Pakighinabi on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together was held to discuss the advancement of a culture of mutual respect in an ethnically and religiously diverse Mindanao led by Al Qalam Institute Executive Director, and Member of Parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Datu Mussolini Lidasan.
Written by: Allan Acera, Jr. and Karl Maglana, BA Communication IV, ICOMMP Interns
Photo credits: Institutional Communications and Promotions (iCommP) Office, Ateneo de Davao University