The Ateneo Peace Institute initiated the Circles of Discernment on January 16, 2015 at the JMR Function hall. The invitation was extended to the personnel of Social Development Units. The goal of the activity is to help prepare for the celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week on February 2-7, 2015 and respond to the recent challenges of peace worldwide. At present, we are confronted with events that challenge Interfaith Harmony. The most recent issue of violence in Paris that claimed the lives of 12 people in the headquarters of a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has stirred diverse emotional reactions from people of different religions and has opened up old wounds.
The conversation aimed to bring people together to share information, feelings, insights, reflections and commitment to come up with collective actions to address the said issues. It was also meant to increase the level of awareness of the participants regarding extremism and radicalism and clarified personal and institutional values. Moreover, it sought to strengthen and capacitate the participants in understanding and analyzing social issues.
The activity started with a recollection of the participants’ personal experiences that may have promoted or disrupted the trail to interfaith dialogue. Sharing of feelings, thoughts and reflections followed. Mr. Yusuf Morales, Coordinator for Muslim Affairs gave a brief presentation which focused on Radicalism and Religious Extremism. The presentation was informative and insightful because it provided an avenue for everyone present to express their thoughts and their learning of the issue(s).
Further, the participants were also asked to share their ideas on how Social Development Units can help promote interfaith dialogue. One participant shared “SDUs must create counter-measures using the web by posting positive things or good news on social media”. While others felt that there is a need to link with the parents of our students. “Perhaps, we can also do a circle of discernment activities to our parents through the school’s Parent –Teacher Association (PTA),” one participant suggested. The idea is anchored on the notion that the family is the basic social unit of the society. As such, it can and has great influence over the younger generation of today.
The activity ended with the symbolic commitment- setting where the participants wrote down on a piece of paper a word or a person that motivates them to continue to work and promote interfaith harmony. The papers were connected and formed into a chain to symbolize the connectedness of peoples of different faiths and cultures in pursuit of peace and development in the city, the region, the country and the world.
The Circles of Discernment is a periodic reflection activity organized by the Ateneo Peace Institute. This activity provides an avenue for people to converse, discuss and reflect on issues that have significance and consequences in the pursuit of genuine development for the attainment of just and lasting peace.