Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Feature Story: How I became a Peace Advocate

By Ustadz Alzad Sattar, Undersecretary for Madrasah Education, DepEd-ARMM, during the Opening Program of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) 2012 Summer Course Training at Brokenshire Convention Center, Davao City last May 2012.

Bismillahirrahmanirrahim (In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful)
Peace advocates and peacebuilders… peace be upon us all.

Let me begin my message with my personal experience and how I became peace advocate like you. I grew up in a conservative Muslim family and I studied in a conservative Madrasah (Islamic school) in my beloved province of Basilan. You can now picture out what kind of person I was. 

I was born during martial law period where military who happens to be Christians and rebels who happen to be Muslims fighting each other. Many members of my families and relatives died at that time. Rido or family feud was also prevalent at the time. 

My mother once related to me a massacre incident where my grandfather, my uncle, my older brother and a relative got killed at the same time. My father was shot dead in front of me when I was 10 -11 years of age. In fact, if time allows I can even relate the whole story in detail. 

When I have my tertiary education I enrolled in AB Political Science. That’s where I got exposed to the real situation of the Philippines particularly the Mindanao. The All-Out-War during the time of Erap Estrada administration in 2000 where they ate pork in Camp Abubakr and desecrated the mosque and the Holy Qur’an, followed by the Warrant-less Arrest of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Administration in 2001 against the Abu Sayyaf Group, where majority of innocent civilians illegally apprehended by the military, with all due respect to the good guys of men in uniform, and put them behind bars without due process of law and the situation of Muslims outside world like Palestine where children are killed helplessly created hatred in my heart towards non-Muslims. 

To cut the story short, I became an activist and a radical human rights advocate or Muslims Rights to be specific. During the warrant-less arrest of Arroyo administration mentioned above, I took the cudgel of exposing the human rights violations done by the military through Friday sermons, meetings, fora, conferences and even during my classes as I was then teaching Bill of Rights at the time. To stop me from doing so, men in uniform illegally apprehended me while on my way to school to teach and unjustly branded as Abu Sayyaf. 

After 3 days of persecution I landed in Provincial jail of Basilan and incarcerated for more than 2 months until finally out, through bail bond, despite the fact that there was an order from DOJ national “All Abu Sayyaf Suspects, No Bail Bond Recommended”. In fairness with the judge at that time who was a Christian himself, he did not hesitate to approve my bail after series of hearings. 

The agony did not stop there, it took me more than 4 years to be acquitted from the case. There was even a time when I studied in the University of the Philippines, Diliman for my Masters in Islamic Studies one of my brothers called me up and told me that I need to come home immediately because I have a hearing the following day. I rushed out to the ticketing office and bought a plane ticket and got home the same day, only to find out the hearing is postponed. But believe it or not my dear peacebuilders, what had happened to me was a blessing in disguise in some way or another. 

If you ask me why? The answer is simply, because it paved way to my “paradigm shift” from a radical activist to peace advocate through interfaith dialogue. This was because during my incarceration Muslims and non-Muslims are living in harmony inside the jail. I started to realize that we can live hand-in-hand despite of our differences in beliefs and faiths. So I actively participated in interfaith dialogue and other peace related activities in and outside the country. 

To conclude, I know everyone has a story to tell. But, whatever your story is, be it personal or not, political or not, remember that “THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PEACE.” Peace is everybody’s business regardless of tribes, races, religions and even professions. 

As Jesus Christ said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) I am also reminded of a verse from the Holy Qur’an which says: “O people, verily, We created you from a male and a female (Adam and Eve) and made you into nations and tribes for you to know and understand each other (not to despise one another). Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the one who fear HIM most.” ( Al-Hujurat, 49: 13) 

Therefore, if we can be friends why become enemies? Let us work one another and make the world a better place to stay not only for us but to include the next generation to come. 

I hope I inspired you all to become more dedicated and committed peace advocates and put aside grudges, hard feelings, and bigotry. After all, we will die, whether we like it or not, sooner or later and we will be accountable to our actions in the presence of Almighty God in the Day hereafter.

Thank you for listening and have wonderful and fruitful sessions until the end of the course.

"Moral Governance"

English - "Good governance for a progressive and peaceful BARMM."

Sinama - "Hap pamarinta tudju BARMM na sambu maka salamat"

Bahasa Sug - "Dan mabuntul tudju pa BARMM masambu iban mahatul"

Meranaw - "Mathitu a kandatu sa BARMM ko katagompiya go kalilintad"


"Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE)"